During that first week of our invasion, the works continued at a relentless pace. The squeaky digger made perilous journeys up and down the crevasse, scraping away at the banks of loose soil to form a temporary hard standing.
Not once did the speedy driver of the big red lorry laden with humongous stones make any attempt to slow down as it careered along the 3km road, leaving a rising vapour trail of insidious dust. And even a brief encounter with the side of our Belgian neighbours’ car did not seem to curb his speeding. The dust storm permeated everywhere, not too pleasant for anyone living near the lorry’s trajectory – like us and about 5o other unfortunates.
Beep, beep, beep as it reversed oh so gently, with inches to spare, along the soft, loose earth where it would eject its load amid a plume of dust and a loud rumbling. You can see from this photo how narrow the gap is. I often watched with morbid curiosity, headscarf over nose – would it be this time that the ‘track’ gave way and Fernando Alonso plus lorry came to a sticky end some 100m down the valley? Turned out that Senor Alonso was one of the bosses of the company. He always seemed to be in a bad temper when he arrived, doing what the Spaniards do best, shouting and waving his arms around. I thought racing drivers were supposed to be cool dudes?
They really got a move on. In no time a posse of purple and white striped cement lorries made their entrance. Carrying such weighty loads, their tyres sank into the soft earth as they reversed gently, beeping loudly, guided by the man with the loud voice who, rather unwisely I thought, chose to stand almost underneath the chute.
The digger driver would then start picking up the boulders one at a time and carefully line them along the side of the bank, with the other man standing underneath (!) and directing. Occasionally noddy men would come to make periodic inspections with their clipboards and high-vis jackets, but obviously too hot to wear the full kit, ie the hard hats.
A few days after they started work, I heard a very deep rumbling above the incessant din of everything else and I saw an orange stegosaurus making its slow way along our road. Yes, it turned left, it was coming to us, all right. Obviously, the little digger was not quite man enough and they’d decided to bring in the big guns. And this thing was huge, and quite glorious. What a wonderful conveyance to do the weekly shopping in! Still in a vague honeymoon period with the men, and still waiting for their quote to ‘repair’ our bank, we said they could park it further up on our land, which is what they did for the weekend.
It was all unfolding there below us, like some am-dram production. There’d been no attempt to put in any drainage yet awhile, and what on earth were they going to do about the water pipes they’d cut in many places and tossed over the side?
The crevasse below our drive had been bolstered up with a two-tier terrace of stones, cemented in place. That part of the project, pro-tem, had been secured, although our bank had not. We wondered how the men were going to manage the water cascading around from John and Deryk’s, because that’s how the steep bank fell away in the first place.
The men told us that the works should take six weeks or so. Let’s recap. Just to repair our bit of track so far, we estimate that 5-10 lorries of stone came daily, each load about 10 tonnes, and costs 400 euro per load – 50 loads minimum. To Periana and back it is a 2 hour round trip. Each load of concrete costs between 800-1000 euro and there have been between eight and ten lorry loads. That’s a lot of dosh, and they’ve barely begun. In fairness, the men have worked very hard and they seem fearless, but I’m afraid the jury’s out as to whether the whole thing benefits the community, and if they have done enough for it to withstand the winter rains over time.
The chaps have moved on to the next crevasse, still bordering our land. As you can probably imagine, I’ve kept quite a photo log and I intend to keep a close eye on what they do to our bank in the coming weeks. I was going to write that nobody has the right to take land, but of course the Junta have a track record of doing this. Some years back they took 7 acres of our land and called it Parque Natural. No explanatory visit, no letter (formal or otherwise), no compensation, no right of appeal because we didn’t even know about it.
In the quiet of the evening we strolled down to survey the progress and we met our neighbours John and Deryk doing exactly the same thing. We shook our heads in stunned disbelief as we walked the length of what is now becoming a major civil engineering project. They have lived here for years and they, like us, cherish the unspoiled beauty and tranquillity of this place.
Gazing despondently at two severed water pipes, Deryk summed it all up rather well. He simply said, “why?”. Why indeed? The cavalier rape of the land and the sheer expense involved in the unnecessary widening of a simple country track which now seems to be morphing into an A road (which goes nowhere except – it is mooted – to some dignatory’s recently-inherited patch of land). It all beggars belief.