Great news! After two years of dormancy, our precious cycad is bursting forth into new life! Back in 2009, 34 euro seemed very expensive for a tiny plant and during that time it’s only thrown out new growth twice. Of course, that price reflected how special and ancient the plant is, and I was so keen to have one in my garden here, just like I always wanted a ginkgo biloba back in England. The ginkgo unfortunately died, and I did wonder whether the cycad had finally given up the ghost.
Cycads date back to the Permian era, over 200 million years ago – even before the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Although once abundant across the world, they are now greatly reduced in both numbers and location. They are very slow growing but very long-lived, with some specimens apparently living for as long as a thousand years.
New life too for the oleanders. The hedge in front of the cabin has reached new heights, and I thought I would start taking some cuttings. The book said it is easy to propagate, so I’ve been snipping off some likely looking shoots and sticking them in water. After a week or so and a sprinkling of rooting hormone they seem to have taken. If this does work en masse, then the aim is to get some hedges established alongside the agaves around our boundaries which will hopefully deter the goats if they do manage to clamber up our bank. The sap is poisonous so the goats leave well alone. That’s the theory, anyway.
I’ve noticed the bumble bees tend to come out more in early evening, and I was just able to catch this happy chap as he flitted around the aloe flower. Everyone knows what a bumble bee is, but so many things I’m coming across, both in terms of flora and fauna, that I can’t identify from my rather generalised reference books. Things like this shiny golden beetle clinging to the back of Joe’s t-shirt. Now that the books I’ve ordered from England have arrived, I’ve started the bewildering task of trying to identify the myriad varieties of grasses. A labour of love that may take some time!
In case you’re wondering, the latest on our track is that the men have disappeared. They’ve been gone now for ten days. Was it something we said? Was it because we stopped giving them Coca-Cola? Or have they fallen prey to the Spanish disease of starting a project and abandoning it? As most people will know if they have ever visited the once-beautiful Costa del Sol, it is littered with see-through shells of concrete tower blocks and lifeless, rusting cranes. These hideous eyesores are often in front line positions that block out the twinkling blue Mediterranean. Most Spaniards would bleat that it was caused by the ‘financial situation’, but as we all know, this isn’t the whole story. Words like ‘greed’ and ‘easy EU money’ spring to mind!
You almost have to have close your eyes in order to avoid seeing things like breeze block walls held together with random lumps of cement, the piles of white sand and construction materials so large that will never be hidden by weeds. I know this is a sweeping generalisation, but the Spanish just don’t seem to be finishers, it’s as though they run out of steam and think “that’ll do for now; mañana“. Judging by how the families around here toil on their land, and watching how ‘our men’ worked on the track below us, I can’t deny that they are hard workers.
But Monday 2 June was the last day we saw them. They turned up in force, not seeming to notice that the weekend’s storms had created a new gully. They were going to be laying concrete along the 300m stretch of designated ‘motorway’, the part of the track that they’ve mended. The valley echoed with the sounds of raised voices as they manhandled the huge sheets of metal, two abreast, across the track. They put down more shuttering, and argued about that and then it was time for the concrete.
We thought the lorries would reverse the 300m and work their way back towards us, but presumably that was too easy. Instead, they came from the other end – 3km of extremely circuitous and hilly track which meant turning the lorry somewhere along its narrow length and then reversing it the rest of the way.
The loads were dropped amid more shouting and furious levelling – reminded me of that Olympic sport of curling. It was a very hot day and they worked like stink to smooth the surface and quickly spread it as the lorries came and went. Then they were gone. We estimated that it would probably take the rest of the week to cover all the 300m and we were very interested what they would do next day to direct the flow of water away from our bank and down over the wall. The next day arrived but they didn’t!
We came across the former mayor on the track who was surveying the works approvingly. When we told him we lived arriba (up there), he said with a note of pride that he had helped lay the foundations for our house but this we knew already. During the course of the conversation, he waved his arm around and told us that all the houses around here are illegal, not just ours. That’s all right then! He wasn’t interested in anything other than his personal water supply – another one who has property the other side of our hill and for whom, presumably in part, this highway is being built.
As we look out now, the track – with its single strip of concrete – is largely abandoned but still festooned with orange netting, shuttering, scattered lengths of wood, white sand, big plastic pipes and the huge sheets of metal grid lining the bank, ready for use.
A beaten up old Land-Rover keeps coming and going, and judging from the random holes and mounds of soil dotted along the track, they are presumably trying to sort out some sort of water problem. I’m surmising here, but could this be the reason why the project is held up? The digger driver had certainly seemed rather cavalier, leaving in his wake twisted, bent and severed water pipes and we did wonder how they would sort it all out.
As it happens, I’ve just had word from a neighbour who asked one of these aforementioned water diviners why the works had stopped. He said something in broad Andalús about there being a bureaucratic problem with funding. Apparently the Junta has allocated monies but it is up to our ayuntamiento (town hall) to distribute it. A naughty thought but surely it couldn’t have disappeared into someone’s pocket somewhere?
There can only be one thing worse than having a dual carriageway constructed below your property, and that is having an unfinished one! Will they ever return?