Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Boggy Side of Paradise

Patrick already wrote about Avila -- you can see his take on the place on his blog, which is linked to this one right over here to the right. It was a lovely time-out.  Getting Patrick to leave behind his dogs and his Peaceable is getting more and more difficult, but once he´s arrived at the vacation place he almost always has a whale of a time. I gotta say I chose well. Avila´s got all the things we like best: history, art, architecture, bizarre religious relics, sunshine, walk-ability, a language we understand, good and reasonably-priced lodgings, and a couple of really good eateries. And it´s on the non-stop rail line to Sahagun. We were there in a couple of hours, and didn´t have to search out a parking spot.  

Even Adam and Eve had to get outta Eden at some point. Even a place people see as Paradise is just plain old "home" to the people who live there. We are often told that our house is a little paradise, an oasis, a slice-o-heaven. And to a pilgrim who´s been sleeping on manky mattresses among  the sweaty pilgrim masses, this would indeed appear to be any of the above. After 40 kilometers of trail, from your lawn chair in the flower-decked, canary-singing patio, with your cold beer in your hand and your blistered feet soaking in a warm tub of salt water, yeah. The place looks great!

Long as you´re not here when the bathtub drain leaks through the kitchen ceiling. Or the über-tech induction stovetop quits for the fourth time in five months. Or Una pushes open the back door and lets a cloud of Buick-sized horseflies into the house. Seriously. I opened the door to our utility room yesterday afternoon, and 844 monster flies were hanging there in the air like a slow fog, groaning like zombies. I had to spray poison through the crack, slam shut the door, and spend another quarter-hour sweeping up their creepy heaped carcasses.

Ah, summertime in Paradise! Flies are, apparently, a given in Castilla y Leon. Our neighbors seem to take little notice of the flies and other insects that hover round them at work, rest, play, and worship. Our attempts to swat and trap bugs are looked upon with smiles of pity. It´s hopeless, they say. It´s summertime. No one bothers putting screens in their windows. They sometimes hang curtains, or beads or plastic-strip draperies in their doorways, but these only work for a few weeks. Inevitably, one clever fly figures out how to get through, and somehow instantly telegraphs the big news to the next five generations.    

Wow, I did not set out to blog about Insect Plagues, really. But creepy crawlies are fascinating, you gotta admit. They´re the Other Side of Paradise. That, and the boggy smell that rises out of the drains of even the finest homes, hotels, and businesses... Spain hasn´t cottoned onto the concept of sewer-line chimney stacks. (Back when the plumbing went in, I asked our builder where our sewer vent was. He looked at me like I was insane. (he did that quite often.)  "You want to put a hole in the roof, and a chimney, for the drains? You´re not burning anything in there," he said. "The smells. The vapors," I told him. "They have to be vented somewhere, or they come up through the pipes." He snorted. "That´s why there´s always a WINDOW in the bathroom!" he said, in the tone you use on stupid children.)

So there you have it. In July, August, and September we have flies in the house most of the time -- usually a lot fewer than the Nine Plagues of Egypt level, but some. And sometimes it smells boggy in the bathrooms. But as long as Kim is here it´s all sparkly clean. As long as Paddy is cooking and the chickens are laying and the garden is producing, the food is pretty darn good. And as long as the guitarists keep rolling up, we´ll have spectacular live music out on the patio now and then.  

Me, I just mess around in the garden for a while, and I write. It is a slow, painstaking business. I am trying to be patient and kind to myself. And someday soon, pilgrims will have a guidebook on how to go home to their own Paradises once they´ve finished the Camino de Santiago, and fully appreciate what they´ve got there. And what their Camino´s given them. And how to mix them together into a rich, nutritious, delicious post-camino Life.



claire said...

Give a hug to the Peaceable for me, please!

I have great memories of Avila as well...

Laura said...

I suppose a shipment of fly strips would be unacceptable? We started our last trip to Spain on a dairy farm north of Barcelona and were immediately immersed in the no-screens-regardless-of-how-many-flies mentality. I found it worked best if I just didn't think about all the times my dad told me as a kid that the flies had probably been on some sort of excrement before landing on my food!

To some I live in paradise too; I suspect there is no real paradise, but I am happy to spend my life exploring the possibilities.

Anonymous said...


And the three Mexicanos haven't even arrived yet !

Hasta pronto,