Tuesday, 17 July 2007
The Joy of English...and Sweet, Sweet Silence
The Peaceable Kingdom is hardly visitor-friendly lately, but Visitors come anyway. (here's a picture of some of our chatty pilgrim visitors. These ones are Spaniards from Aragon.)
It's the season, I guess. The phase of the moon. We can go for weeks without a single stay-a-while guest, and suddenly get four or five in a row, or several all at once. That is how it works here. All or nothing. Both ways are nice, most of the time.
We put Ann on the noon train eastward today, she's headed out to Albacete. Ann's from New Jersey, a former pilgrim who's this trip a tourist, wending her way through Spain and up to Paris for her 65th birthday. Sixty-five, she says, is right there at Old, and she didn't want to be home when that day dawned. (her yard is torn apart, she said -- she's in the midst of a six-year landscaping project without end. Too stressful there. So she came here! Ha!)
So we showed her the mattress on the kitchen floor, and the workers pounding away at floorboards and carting loads of rubble out the front gate. She was duly warned. She stayed two days, a stalwart soul.
Somehow, other peoples' messes aren't nearly so stressful as your own, even when you're sitting in the middle of them. Especially when you're sitting under the beach umbrella on the patio with a cool lemonade and a three-day-old New York Times Sunday edition. The wheelbarrows roll sweetly past. The dog flops down to doze, smack in the middle of the traffic pathway. The birds twitter, the flies buzz in the ivy, the nail gun taps out a rhythm upstairs.
Doug, an sociology professor from New Hampshire, arrived this morning with his Italian traveling companion. We fueled them up on coffee and gave them the quick tour, which ended out at the chicken hut. I put five still-warm brown eggs into his hands, and made him up a breakfast with two of them. (There's something so gratifying about a breakfast so palpably fresh.) Ann and I walked the two of them halfway to St. Nicholas before the sun got too high. Una caught two mice, and almost got a lizard.
We almost always walk in the morning, and sometimes bring home a pilg or two for coffee and a chat.
In the mornings we speak mostly English here, and our guest book testifies to our clear preference for anglophone visitation: England, USA, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand and Australia are heavily represented. Mornings are misty enough for me without the gymnastics of German verb conjugations, and buying the day's bread is about as far as my Spanish will stretch before 10 a.m. Experience also tells us sometimes the visitor is deeply relieved to converse in his native tongue. There are large pockets of French out there still... and Polish, too, these days. And Japanese.
Most English-speaking pilgrims will at least try to communicate with those of other tongues, but the work is exhausting after a while. A Liverpool lad named Nigel, fresh from two days' travel among French-only Parisians and Quebecois, hugged me tight last Tuesday when I greeted him with a simple "Good Morning." I thought he was going to cry with joy. (I didn't let on how incomprehensible his Scouse accent was to me!)
It seems some pilgrims who've rested-up here were unable to stop talking. One had been traveling solo for too long. The other was a fluent German speaker, but hadn't used her English in days. Then there was an Englishman who I think just liked the sound of his own voice.
Afternoons seem to go Spanish. That's when Juli comes to make flan, or Esparanza, a girl from San Nicolas, rides her bike over to "practice English" but mostly chatters about The Simpsons in rapid-fire Spanglish. We discuss the house progress with Jefe Fran, who is so animated (and talks so fast) I suspect a few dietary additives are taken with his two-hour lunch.
We expect our "hijo politico" Ryan to return to Moratinos any day now from his European sojourn, this being his final stop before the flight home to Ohio and then a long Peace Corps stint in Senegal. (I'm so proud of him!) We don't have many more visits scheduled through the end of July, but who knows what will turn up here in days to come?
The construction racket notwithstanding, I think Paddy and I are spoiled for silence. In between visitors we drift about the place quietly most of the time. We are comfortable with one another, and happy enough to read or weed or launder or paint together or alone, without any words.
The birdsongs fill in the spaces in between. And the pneumatic hammer, digging up the old kitchen tiles. And the tractors, making hay way off in the distance.