Under siege

After about ten days of a very strange virus indeed, I am this morning making the first faltering steps towards Recovery.  I don’t feel I’m out of the woods yet, and still have some lingering and persistent health niggles, but if I wake up feeling even slightly better tomorrow, then yippee! That means I haven’t had to resort to antibiotics, despite some pressure to do so. How did I catch such a hideous bug?  Not sure, but it kicked off with some sort of irritation in my throat for which initially I blamed the polvo (dust).  The dust?

It all started with a convoy of men, vans and a digger who appeared  on the lower track without any notice.  We’d heard that work had been scheduled, but with budgets being so tight for such things, particularly in Andalusia, we didn’t hold out much hope.  There are four places along the track where for many years now it has been quite impossible to walk along, and the track’s been the subject of an ongoing run-in between Ricardo and the mayor, both of whom claim ownership.

Day 8 track repair 7 May 14The track starts down the hill from our nearest neighbours, round a corner and our drive veers off right at a ‘v’ intersection.  The track then winds its way via a very circuitous route to our nearest village and has little value as a short-cut.  It’s a beautiful, unspoiled area, buzzing with life, literally, as there are 71 beehives halfway along. Here’s a photo I took a few days ago from the other end before the diggers make their rumbling way along it. The cabin roof is just visible halfway up the hill.

????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????? Stones at gate Sep 13 (3)Every winter we’ve watched the rains as they cascade around and down the hill to erode even more of what’s left of our tiny ribbon of drive.  Every year we’ve felt even more vulnerable as Ricardo has been so aggressively feudal about every inch of ‘his’ track.  He always manages to appear out of nowhere to rant when we’ve had to get Luis and his digger to scrape an access which should hopefully last us for yet another year.  The last couple of years we began putting boulders in the huge crack, and Ricardo put a locked fence (“illegal”, said the mayor) across the track, as curiously he’s got a bee in his bonnet about people and dogs trespassing on his property!

Cabin from afar 13 Feb 14 (2)There is another way in to our land, instead of turning left down by our English neighbours, there is a track that leads straight ahead through a patch of land directly to our fenced off boundary. This is owned by Ricardo’s wife and about 6 years ago we entered negotiations with them to buy it, all coming to nought – 75,000 euro is definitely a ridiculous price for an acre of scrubby scrub!  I secretly think that Ricardo has been biding his time waiting for us to be completely at his mercy so he can then pressure us into purchasing this ransom strip.  It seems that to the Spanish campo mentality, all foreigners are apparently as rich as they are lacking in business acumen!

So, on Monday 28 April, the men and gear arrived amidst clouds of choking dust, which was to become a rather unpleasant side effect in the days that followed.  We actually couldn’t believe our luck and danced around with glee!  We were actually having something good happen to us, someone, somewhere was smiling down on us from afar. Having the drive repaired so we need never worry about the menacing presence of Ricardo!  Being able to stroll, arm in arm, down the scenic path in the languid summer evenings!  It all seemed too good to be true.

In fact, it was.  I think I’ll write about it all next time.

There were a few other things that happened in those last ten days which can fit rather nicely within the ‘under siege’ heading of this post.  Firstly, the potential demise of the submersible that pumps water up from the 150m deep well.  It just stopped working.  Joe checked everything he could, but either the well had run out of water or the pump had died or needed fixing.  Gulp!  We began imagining how on earth we would get the damned thing out of the well shaft as it is a long way down and the various cabling plus pump weigh quite a bit. Also, we would have to rig something that would pull it all up vertically before dragging it off sideways via 4×4 150m up the drive. Something like a wishing well type of arrangement (without the pretty tiled roof and other decorative features).

We started rationing our water and examining our options.  Roger, our very capable English electrician suddenly sprang into our mind and, what d’you know, he’d just been dealing with the same sort of problem for someone else.  We had to wait a nail-biting four days, but even when he came, it still seemed that the pump would still have to be pulled out.  Last minute reprieve!  The technicalities escape me, but it was something to do with the way the non-return valve had been fitted at the outset.  We need new parts, which he’s ordered, but he got it working again, and pumping better than it’s ever done before!  Good old Roger!

I’ve used the phrase ‘damage limitation luck’ many times in our life together.  Recent examples of this – how the experience with our drive is turning out, and the pump episode. Damage limitation luck is twisting your ankle on a kerb, falling over and as you lie there in agony in the gutter you find a £1 coin. Being pioneer folk, Joe and I have ceased to get upset over these seemingly major incidents that are thrown at us on quite a regular basis as we exist on the edge.  But we do get quite pleased with ourselves when something is not quite as bad as we thought it was, or it will only cost hundreds to repair instead of thousands.  I’m sure you know the sort of thing I’m talking about.

Death watch beetle 12 May 14 (2)We’re under siege from creepie-crawlies too.  As I looked out from my bed (and unfortunately I’ve been spending quite a lot of time there in the past week), I noticed something strange in the corner of the verandah. Rushing out to investigate, my heart lurched as the wood in the main supporting beam just crumbled away under my fingers. Joe confirmed it.  Death Watch Beetle.  Aaaarghh!

Cabin and steps 2 Oct 13The whole of the back of the house faces the prevailing wind and mountains and has been under attack for years from this pernicious little blighter and all his relatives, but the odd bit of spraying has largely kept them under control. However, last year was a bit unusual and neither of us were minded to do very much by way of routine maintenance. I pondered over the damage limitation aspect here.  The cost of applying two lots of spray to the whole house will be about 500 euro if we do it all ourselves (messy, awkward to do, bad for the lungs, etc), but if we have to get a company in to do it, who knows what they’d charge?  You see, there’s always a positive side, just when you think it’s all so hopeless.

So, before I launch into the next post about the rape of our life, land, health and human rights via governmental thugs driving diggers, it may be nice to end this post with a few photos that sum up why, despite some irritations, we absolutely love being in this very special place, and are still doing our best to smile benevolently on those that try and crush our spirit.

Granado flower 14 May 14 (2)Olives terrace 14 May 14 (1280x960)We have more pomegranates (granados) than ever this year. Also, for the first time our young olive trees are going to give us a modest harvest.  Despite a distinct lack of watering, the apples, pears, almonds and hazelnuts and a few walnut trees are clinging to life, as are the kumquats.

JB eating mulberries 14 May 14 Mulberries 14 May 14 (1) (1280x960)Oh, and the mulberries!  I don’t think it’s possible to eat another fruit that is as sweet and rich as the mulberry.  Trouble is, one of the trees is so high we’ll need stepladders to get at the fruit.  On second thoughts, let’s leave it to the birdies.





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