It’s Halloween of ‘21 and witches are a’riding, soaring high cross cragged hills and dipping low through shallow dales. Cackling laughter on hooley winds and boney hands clutching tight to besoms winging through the night. Children point as they trick or treat and parents smile and say ‘a falling star’ dearest child. But youngsters know what they see flapping capes, pointed hats, cats and bats, frogs and rats hitching rides on brooms bewitched super powers bestowed tonight. Windows beam with Jack O’Lanterns keeping watch until the dawn. Spider webs, slimy goo, ghostly whispers, spectre shrieks. In scary graveyards tombs release the dead. Zombies, ghouls, vampires all abroad this night hocus pocus far and wide!
Deathly hands moved too quickly forward ticking towards disaster. Oh that time might have reversed. Oh that time might never have reached that fated moment nine thirteen on the darkest morning. Heartbreak in a second. Unfulfilled lives lost, those left behind to suffer living hell. Children playing, happy sounds, grate on bereaved minds unable to voice pain coping only in agonising silence, words snared in cobweb thoughts. Untangling may destroy what sanity remains.
Strolling through the orchards of Arboleas is the start of a love affair. The fruit trees, heavily laden in their seasons, tempt touch and taste. It is said a person may pick two pieces of fruit in passing. Walk daily and the passion between tree and human might strip the harvest before time. There is something glorious about the clear, blue backdrop and the lush green leaves. The oranges and lemons peep through the dense branches. They are so big they remind me of Chinese lanterns. By default, thick undergrowth—dotted with yellow and mauve wild flowers—flourishes under the care the farmer lavishes on his orchard.
But 2012 has seen change—the lemon trees have been deprived of water. The farmers can no longer afford to reap their crops for the pittance yielded. These beauties of nature have slowly died and the smell of burning lemon-wood has filled the Almanzora Valley for weeks.
In their place, olive saplings will stand like rookie soldiers, swaying in the breeze. They must become strong and erect before the winter winds buffet the valley. For three years they have to take firm root until they begin to pay their way.
The fruit farmer is in his seventies and his love of the land shines through twinkling eyes when he speaks of his life’s passion. He has worked this soil from boyhood, taking over from his father when he became too frail to leave the house. He is small—like most Spaniards of his generation—but he is wiry. Not for him an expanding girth. His sun-wrinkled skin is a tribute to hours in the open air. His panama, which has seen better days, has not stopped the crows’ feet creasing his weather-beaten cheeks.
I ask him, in my pidgin Spanish, ‘Fotografia, por favor?’ and to his nod, I point my camera and shoot away at a changing landscape and a changing life.
We understand one another well. When I take my daily walk I look out for him or a member of his family, hoping one or other of them is working their land.
He is saddened by the loss of his beloved old lemon trees but accepts the need to move with the times. He even has a small van to transport his tools and containers and has put his old donkey out to pasture. More than once he has tipped the vehicle over the edge, front wheels stuck in his orchard, back end still on the road. Unperturbed, he just waits for my husband, or another passer-by, to push him out.
Other plants and shrubs share the surrounding land—wild, natural foliage growing hand in hand with the cultivation that has crept onto the rambla. The banks of the dry river-bed still display reeds three times as tall as a man. Their proud heads reach for the sky, their feet, metres down, searching out the water that once flowed deep in the Rio Almanzora. The farmer’s son says he learnt to become a swimmer in its waters.
Like so many rivers in southern Spain, a winter trickle is all you may see. Where did it go? The farmer shrugs but warns of flash floods—it is still a water bed.
As we speak, beneath the spring sun, his family are helping plant even more young olive trees. Hopefully, in time, these will yield an income and repay the family for their toil. God willing, they will see the first crop and perhaps, many more. He tells me he is a lucky man. His daughter and son, son-in-law and their four children, share his infatuation with the earth. So many of his contemporaries have lost their families to the cities or coastal towns.
Four cents a kilo is little incentive to keep alive the rural life.
Welcome to my new blog where I will write about the many villages in my surrounding area, and further afield. I begin with today’s visit to Lubrin but in the weeks to come I will be posting some older blogs, many of which go back eleven years and written during my wonderful time as a member of the expat writing group, Writers Abroad, sadly no longer.
For all mothers natural or by chance those with us and those no longer we remember you. Memories are made of the hills and troughs of life that rut the smoothness of existence. Day ends soothing sleep brings dawn hope and chances new.
On Capitol Hill as the sun began to set footfall rampaged on a citadel’s steps. A narcissist drowning in a mire of lies built like castles in the sand. On this day of Epiphany in the darkest hours his distortion laid bare. Honourable men speak without prejudice – one country one destiny.
It’s my norm. 3 a.m. – the witching hour – waiting for water to boil. It’s been this way since… Pushing back a tide of thoughts is so tiring. And useless. I’m engulfed My head battles to curtail my unrestrained brain activity. Just like the rampant bubbles trapped in my glass kettle.
It is with great delight Writers Abroad, an established online international writing group, shares news of a forthcoming publication. Our sixth anthology, Far Flung: Celebrating a Decade at Writers Abroad is now available in digital format on pre-order with a publication date of October 31st. This anthology is a treasure trove of contributions from around the globe provided by current and past members of this successful community of expat writers. The seed of an idea to celebrate ten years of friendship, creativity, and achievement has blossomed into a diverse medley of writing. Wide-ranging in more ways than one this collection showcases countless experiences of those who left familiar lands to venture into an exciting unknown. For many, new lands have become home. For others, it is just a pleasant interlude along life’s journey. During this trying year when travelling for pleasure has been almost impossible, Writers Abroad members, old and new, spanning every continent, have collaborated to produce an anthology offering ‘far flung’ destinations to our readers. Writers Abroad has tried to provide something for everyone within the covers of this exciting anthology. To all who enjoy the written word it is hoped you will take as much pleasure from this collection as Writers Abroad took in its compilation. Writers Abroad is proud to have the foreword written by the prestigious author Peter May. Far Flung will be available in paperback on November 14th at £4.99 and all proceeds will go to World Literacy: http://worldliteracyfoundation.org/. Please buy for your personal enjoyment and also as a gift with a difference this Christmas. You will have a wonderful read and be helping to enable literacy and giving the pure joy of reading to some of the poorest children in the world. Pre-order: Amazon For more information please visit: https://writersabroad.com/
Below, Writers Abroad members present and past– collage courtesy of John Nixon.
First day allowed out together in the car since lockdown.
The landscape has not changed. Only the season. When disaster struck, winter was weaving to its end. Fifty-six days have passed. Total isolation. Familiar faces seen only on screens.
Today I am driving through lush, green orchards. Winter rains quenched the land’s thirst. The farmers, unable to tend their fields, gave permission for the grasses to grow, the wild flowers to flourish. The view is stunning.
Yellows and mauves intersperse a myriad shades of green, through tawny to gold. Some pinks dare to show a head as the breeze creates a rippling sea.
Further up in the hills, the only sounds are the birds as they call out in the stillness. Milky butterflies, and occasionally a red and black, do what they do best – flutter through the grasses, stopping briefly at the wild broom and clusters of thistles.
The tiny hamlet of Los Dioses nestles below, not a vehicle or person in sight.
This is a new beginning. The earth is healing Perhaps it was meant to. Among the sadness, which is immense, the world is breathing again.