Saturday, 28 July 2007

A Long Summer Saturday

I am very tired. It's only 10 p.m. on Saturday, time for all good Spaniards to sit down to dinner, with a card game and drinks after. Not me. Soon as I get done with this, (and writing in the daily hard-copy diary, and putting away the green beans) I am hitting the sack.

It's a righteous kind of tired. I put in a very full day. It makes me feel proud of myself, as I've been putting in some less-than rigorous time lately. I don't want to get fat.

So here is Saturday on my own in Moratinos. (Paddy is down in Malaga, splashing in the Med and sharing stomach viruses with the grandchildren.) I woke myself up early because I was expecting Roger and his wife to arrive sometime in the morning, and I wanted the place to look at least sanitary. I had the whole morning to hike the dog around (Milagros gave us a couple of handfuls of new green beans), start laundry, put away junk, take out trash, etc. And to hunt down all the info. I have collected on woodburners, pellet stoves, boilers, and other heating systems. The visitors rolled up about noon.

Roger and his wife (I can't remember her name!) are from the Netherlands. He lives now down on the Costa del Sol, where all the Europeans are; he's started a business there selling radiant heating systems mostly to fellow expats. She is an architect, still living in Holland and supporting them both while his business gets going. They were on their way south from Holland, and stopped here on the way, because I kept asking him so many questions on the online "fincas in spain" forum. They have nothing to gain from us, as Castilla-Leon is a LONG way from Arcos de Frontera, where he lives and works... too far to sell or service anything. I think they're just really nice.

And so I showed them through The Project, and then learned more about renewable energy heat sources than I ever wanted to know. I still am not sure what all I've come away with, but looking over our place he recommends a "bomba de calor," aka "heat pump," to run the under-floor system and a few connected upstairs radiators. (I think "bomba de calor" sounds a whole lot more toothsome than "heat pump.") And I found a dealer/installer right here in Palencia!

I also learned our gut-and-rebuild project is remarkably huge even for those used to seeing expat reform-a-ruin projects in Spain. And that our many months of waiting and arguing and anguishing over builders could've been a whole lot worse. And the corrugated steel doors on our front gate and bathroom are quite chic in architectural circles!

Their three dogs waited out in the camper van, parked in the shade. The dogs are real crocodiles: an Irish terrier and two rather feral-looking little black mutts whom Roger said, with a touch of strange pride, have already killed five sheep between them. The terrier attacked Una, who attacked right back. And on that note the Dutchmen and their dogs drove away toward the Via de la Plata. (Una seems none the worse for it. She loves a good rumble.)

They went at about 2, which is lunchtime hereabouts. I had leftover veg, all mixed up together, and fell asleep for a while. This is Spain. That's what you do, especially when the heat comes down like a curtain at about 1 p.m.

I woke up just in time to bike over to St. Nicolas, where I was to chat with young Esperanza in English for a while. I ended up chatting with her mom, Raquel, in Spanish instead. They live in a classic Moorish-style finca, very plain on the outside and a lush garden with fruit trees, roses and jasmine, vegetable patches, a well, caged canaries, covered porches hung with hams, and stable blocks all strung together over decades' worth of do-it-yourself building projects. The house is two stories with amazing views out over the threshing floor and up the tree-lined Rio Seco. I got the full tour. I got another big bag of green beans. I think they like me.

Their front gate opens right onto the Camino de Santiago, and they put up scallop shells outside... apparently an invitation to some people. Just as I was leaving a very nasty-looking man turned up with a scruffy dog on a string. He asked for help, so Raquel gave him a Euro. He looked at it in his hand like it was a beetle.

"I don't need money. I need something to eat. I want a sandwich," he said. (He put the money in his pocket anyway.) Raquel went into the house, so I stood at the gate and was friendly at him. He spoke English. A Swede who'd for some reason visited Mississippi, he decided he doesn't like America so he came back to Europe, where the evils of America just seemed to follow him everywhere. The Camino was, he said, a nice break from all that, a few weeks of peace.

Raquel came back with a foil-wrapped sandwich and an apple. "I don't want your fruit. I just asked for the sandwich," he told her, handing back the apple. "Thank you."

He went to leave. "Say a prayer for her, on your way," I said, by way of goodbye. "I already said thank-you!" he said, striding back to the door. "What more do you want from me? I'm not going to do it. I'm not saying a prayer."

Me and Raquel and Esperanza looked at one another. The canaries stopped singing. "OK then," I told him. "Have a good trip. Good luck with your dog."

"Christ! You're still such an American, telling me what to do!" he yelled, waving his sandwich. "My dog does not need good luck, OK?" Raquel shut the gate before he could get any closer.

"Maleducado," Esperanza said. "Sin verguenza," her mom added. "Bloody lunatic," I finished. Raquel nodded. "The moon is full. It makes them aggressive."

He made me feel low for a little while, but when I got back to Moratinos the pueblo was in full Summer Evening mode, which is enough to put anyone right. The plaza is all tidied up, the flower garden is in full bloom, the duenas in their widow's weeds sat in their wheelchairs while their progeny played cards or chatted or hauled buckets of concrete to the roofing job across the way, or oiled their tractors. Modesto's house was blasting the "Sound of Music" soundtrack. We all tapped our toes while Julie Andrews' "Favorite Things" echoed off the adobes. It sounded remarkably like the tinny electioneering cars that jabber through the streets during campaign season, but with a string section.

In summertime there are children in Moratinos: the grandkids come to visit, and their cousins ride their bikes over from Terradillos or St. Nicolas. They shout and run. Above it all the swallows swoop and circle endlessly. At some signal Julia got up and headed over to the church, her hands full of two huge silver keys. It's Saturday evening -- cleanup time. The able-bodied ladies followed her up the stairs and into the tall cool sanctuary. (this picture is from St. Isidore Day. That's Julia with the church keys -- her pride and joy. And the man is Modesto, resident poet, historian and Julie Andrews fan.)

In a half-hour's time the floors were swept and mopped, from the apse right out over the front steps. The old flowers were taken out and dumped and new gladiolas and roses and greenery were cut and arranged and set up in front of the altar, Nuestra Senora del Rosario, and San Rocco. Candlewicks were trimmed. I put the last of the little votive candles in their cups. After this, no more until September. The bishop is cutting back, Julia said. (I wonder where I can find some around here?)

We stopped back in the plaza, where Leandra showed me the latest crop of kittens and told me to take a couple home. "No!" Pin yelled from over at the card table. "If she's taking anyone's kittens she's taking mine. I asked first, a couple weeks ago!"

I'm allergic to cats, so this will be a Paddy decision, I said. He'd be the one taking care of them. (Hiding behind your husband is acceptable here.)

So I came home, ate some more veg., washed and snapped and blanched and bagged all those green beans, which will go into the freezer soon as I'm done here. Which is right now.

(I'd tell you to "sleep tight," but I don't want to be a bossy American.)

No comments: