I’m beginning to understand how Noah felt.
Last weekend was fiesta weekend for Bullas. The fiesta de San Marcos. The saint for whom our overgrown yak puppy was named, given that he (the dog, not the saint) was foisted upon me four years ago at the very same fiesta.
On Saturday the rain proved to be one of those uninvited and unwelcome thick-skinned guests that refuse to take the hint and leave. It fell relentlessly throughout the afternoon, soaking through the canopy of pine branches at the La Rafa camping centre (the focus of fiesta activity) to fall heavily onto the ground below and all things set upon it. During the San Marcos celebrations, this includes many groups of people (peñas) all laboriously stoking bonfires under huge paella pans for a communal rice-and-unmentionable-things fest.
This year the pathetic wisps of smoke bore witness to the dampness of spirit and body of the participants – a sad contrast to the buzz and colour, the aromas and, well, the warmth we experienced at this same event last year.
The evening proved little better at the outset and downright unpleasant at its close. I met up with some friends in town for a fiesta drink, but alas many people had eschewed further outings for the day given the general air of sogginess that pervaded all things, so the evening was fairly subdued. We called it a day fairly early on, given that we would be up early-ish for the Sunday parade, and I drove home.
To a blacked-out finca.
The incessant rain had obviously found its way into some connection or other, probably in the outside lighting circuit, and had thrown the circuit breaker for all external power.
Now I may have mentioned before that John is a gadget merchant. If there is a gismo to be had for this, or a widget to be had for that, then John’s the man to want it. We therefore have electric gates.
Which don’t work when the power is summarily cut.
So I am parked up in the car on the outside of the finca with no other illumination than the headlights shining upon the pair of staunchly immovable six-foot wrought iron gates (with spikes on top and no pedestrian entrance) which sit across the top of a steep drive down to the house level from the camino.
Along the left-hand edge of the descending drive there is a wall that supports the camino – starting at about two foot high at the top of the drive, this grows to a good eleven foot high at the bottom of the drive. And it is topped by a six-foot chain link fence which extends along its length from the gates, ending at a metal post that coincides with the end of the wall.
As I sat there gazing helplessly upon the scene, the dogs below realised that I had returned home and that, further, they could in all probability play the sympathy card and thus elicit a morsel of extra grub, and so began to howl. I had at that point reached the conclusion that my only way in was to make my way along the bank on the outside of the chain-link fence to the end of the wall, swing round the end post and then proceed back again on the inside of the fence along the top of the wall to the gates and thence to the top of the drive.
Good plan, Stan. Except that I was undertaking this venture with glaring headlights behind me, which rendered me unable to see much given that I was casting a hulking great shadow across my own path. Oh, and also except that I was shod with the most ridiculous pair of stilleto-heeled ankle boots. So by the time I’d got to the end of the fence on the outbound leg of the journey, my feet were totally caked in thick mud such that my boots were giving a fair impression of concrete wellies, and my heels looked like the orders spike in an exceedingly busy restaurant.
So as I executed stage two of my brilliant plan and swung round the post at the end of the fence with my left foot, I couldn’t actually feel the bank below my right one. Probably, in fact, because it wasn’t there and my right foot therefore dropped into nothingness.
This gave rise to two things: one, the inside of my right knee scraped painfully down the end of the wall (and I am sitting nursing a five-inch bruise as a result as I write this); and two, the only way I could stop myself from plummeting backwards down the eleven-foot drop onto the (concrete) drive was to grab the chain-link fence and swing.
As I was clinging to the fence, the end post groaned. And moved.
I still just about have my left foot on the top of the wall, but my chin is almost resting on my knee. My right leg is dangling into the pitch-black void being no help whatsoever. The fence, with its end post no longer fully vertical, has slackened. And flashing through my mind is the fact that John is likely either to kill me for breaking the fence or for breaking my neck.
Suffice it to say that I did manage to haul myself back up again without further movement of the fence post, although I did have to sacrifice all the nails on my left hand. I then had to make my way slowly back atop the wall towards the gate on the inside of the flapping chain-link, shaking like a jelly in an earthquake. The clamour from the dogs, indignant that they were apparently being ignored, was climbing in direct proportion to my lack of muscle control, and to add insult to injury I was being blinded by the headlights that were by then in front of me. But I did, I’m pleased to report, remain somehow on top of the wall for the rest of the venture.
Once I’d managed to achieve the gate end of the wall, I dropped the last two foot onto the drive, and promptly slid down the slope as the mud-encrusted boots hit the wet concrete surface. The downward movement was arrested only when contact was made between the surface of the drive and my left bum cheek, upon which has subsequently flourished yet another bruise.
The rest needs no further description, and, having gained entry to the house and reset the circuit breaker, the car and I were safely back where we belonged in no time at all.
The dogs were placated with cheese and I consoled myself with chocolate.
And yes, John is prematurely grey, bless him.