“If we are looking for insurance against want and oppression, we will find it only in our neighbours’ prosperity and goodwill and, beyond that, in the good health of our worldly places, our homelands. If we were sincerely looking for a place of safety, for real security and success, then we would begin to turn to our communities – and not the communities simply of our human neighbours but also of the water, earth, and air, the plants and animals, all the creatures with whom our local life is shared.” Wendell Berry
Despite living here with hardly any full-time near neighbours and with burglaries apparently on the increase, somehow or other we don’t feel that we are at particularly high-risk. What we have in our favour, I guess, is that our little home is exactly what it is and what you can glimpse through the trees – a wooden shack. To the practised thief there would seem to be far richer pickings elsewhere. You know, all those nice whitewashed houses with roomy extensions, lots of concrete archways, columns, portico infrastructures and the ubiquitous pools.
And what a disappointment it would probably be for anyone hoping to find anything of value to nick and flog! Over the years, and forever alert to the fact that a forest fire could wipe out our home, we’ve deliberately kept its contents low value but of high colour and personal interest. Of course, things like books, kitchenware and linen would be a nuisance to replace, but unlikely to be stolen. Our i-pads always travel with us.
The front gates are always secured, with a four digit combination lock, and usually a heavy chain and serious padlock, too. Just below that we always keep the goat gate locked with another combination lock. Neither of which would deter the dedicated burglar but would certainly dissuade any casual callers – and the dreaded goats.
During the day we will always be at the mercy of trespass by the odd bird- watcher, back-packer or hang glider pilot and , of course, hunters and goat-herders who may wrongly think they have a right to cross our land for some reason. However, most of these men of nature have usually got enough on their plate scouring the hinterland for their goats or for hidden jabali (wild boar).
When I was here on my own I do admit to sleeping with a rusty, blunt antique sword by the bed, an air rifle nearby – without pellets; still not sure where they are! We bought a Spanish made gas pistol but it never properly worked and I’ve actually forgotten how to put the gas cartridge in and load the damn thing with pellets.
“A wholesome oblivion of one’s neighbours is the beginning of wisdom.” Richard Le Gallienne.
Our ‘community’ comprises an assortment of nationalities, some here full-time, some part-time and some hardly ever. We have 4 lots of Germans, two lots of Brits, three lots of Belgians, one unknown, 2 lots of Spanish, and one Scandinavian household. Their houses are scattered around the hillside, most with fine views of the Mediterranean.
An astonishing five properties have changed hands reasonably recently, and I’m not quite sure how the conveyancing went through as we were told by the Alcalde (mayor) himself that all the houses, except for those within the strict curtilage of the village, are illegal. That means they have been built on rural land and at some stage someone has to make a decision as to which houses will be granted permission, which will never be declared legal, and those which will be designated for demolition.
It seems that, at the moment, there is a building frenzy around us; maybe home-owners want to increase the size of their houses before ‘the man’ comes round with his clipboard and rubber stamps their legality. Last year, a German family who come here occasionally added a swimming pool, sauna and a huge solar complex at the back of their already capacious dwelling. A few doors down, some new people have earned my total respect for of converting what was an empty space beside their house into a fully tiled garage – in just one day. The plastering took a further day.
Our object should be peace within, and peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial friendly relations with our immediate neighbours and with the world at large.” Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Well, living peacefully is definitely the aim, but it’s quite difficult to strike up a dialogue with a series of ghosts. We are on nodding acquaintance with only 3 lots of neighbours and have the odd conversation with two further lots, but that suits us fine. We’re not the types to impose ourselves on others and I would imagine that we would only find out what the ‘ghosts’ look like and how friendly they are if we were suddenly to come across them one day on the narrow track.
“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.” George Washington
However, having a special friend in Horst more than makes up for any lack of social contact with anyone else on our hill! Horst is from Germany and he, along with his Sri Lankan wife Deepani, spend half the year here and the other half at their tea plantation in Sri Lanka. How lucky we are to have them both in our life.