Living in Spain, warts and all

Posts tagged ‘rain’


I’m a little late, but not entirely missing!

I didn’t manage to write last weekend because I was busy trying to sneak in as many cuddles as possible with Oliver before flying back to Spain Sunday evening.


So shoot me.

I was, if I’m honest, a touch ambivalent about returning to this peninsula. Not only because I was leaving behind my new grandson, but also for the reason that various sun worshippers here in Spain had been sending me boastful messages of temperatures in excess of 30ºC, which didn’t strike me as being conducive to a gentle return to normality after my month-long sojourn.

I had actually been enjoying the soft thrum of rainfall on the roof of my UK abode, in the same way that I was appreciating the easy greenery that it nurtures. Much as I love our river valley spot here in Spain, it is true to say that it is much of the year scorching and dry. The maintenance of any sort of garden becomes a daily chore of watering the delicate plants that are welcome, and the endless war against the hard-as-nails native triffids that can grow vigorously on a dry stone throughout a five-month drought. More than anything, I found I missed grass. While Ben and numerous other UK folk bemoan the need to mow the stuff weekly, it is a great source of disappointment to me that it is almost impossible to grow a lush emerald lawn here.

My place of residence in damp old England is a large static caravan. Cyclic, my life, much? This spacious and downright luxurious two-bed unit is, however, to the Sardine Tin (in which you may remember I spent some eighteen months of my life whilst building the house in Spain) as a prince is to a toad. It is far more civilised, and entirely without pain! It is situated in east Cheshire, alongside the Macclesfield canal that sees the regular passage of colourful narrowboats, walkers, dogs and ducks, and I have loved being there.


So the thought of melting anew upon homecoming was almost enough to make me tear up my flight tickets and dig in as a permanent satellite of planet Oliver.

The only thing that tipped the balance and persuaded me to drag myself to the airport was my useless upper left appendage, which was continuing to reject the implanted metal bits to the point where it was beginning to resemble a stocking full of marbles.

Back I came obediently, then, as planned, to find that a) the weather in Spain is now every bit as cool and damp as was the UK, and b) I was anyway listed for the second operation on my arm on Wednesday.

I am going to speak now of the arm and its treatment for the very last time ever, and will henceforth summarily excommunicate anyone who mentions it to me again.

The operation on Wednesday morning was in the end far more difficult and traumatic than the original, since it’s obviously easier to insert than to remove. I was conscious throughout the four hour process, having been subjected first to the unconscionable torture inflicted upon me by the anaesthetist as he attempted to numb four major nerves by direct injection into various points on my shoulder and neck. Suffice it to say that success in this matter did not come easily, but when it did, his prize was convulsive, violent and fearsome movement of my arm. Unfortunately, said limb was not in such a position to allow me the satisfaction of accidentally punching him in the nuts, which action may have allowed him suitably painful empathy.

As far as my theatre experience is concerned, I will only say this: the drilling and slurping sounds to which I was subjected first time round paled into insignificance in comparison with the hammering and sawing that I suffered this time…



I then spent two nights in hospital under observation because my elbow continued to bleed. As therefore did my ears. Rest and recuperation are definitely not a given luxury in a Spanish hospital.

My room-mate, Puri(ficación), was bed-bound following hip replacement surgery, so at least one member of her family stood guard to jump to her every need at all times. This is the norm – everyone, including nurses, looked aghast when John left my side to attend to the kennels, eat (see note below) or sleep. Puri’s night guard slept in a chair in the room, snored like a warthog, loved to watch TV for a solid seventeen hours a day, and objected to open windows. During the day, there were a minimum of six ever-changing visitors around Puri’s bed (and by necessity of space, also around mine), talking at elevated noise levels to combat the sound of the TV which was then turned up by the night guard to exceed the noise of the conversation, which was then raised to drown the TV (and so on and so on).  These visitors also managed between them to maintain full occupation of the loo to the extent that I could barely slip in myself…

My final word on this subject. Spanish hospitals are brilliant – they are spotlessly clean, efficient and well-staffed. There is no hesitation in carrying out necessary tests. Nurses on night duty respond quickly to a summons (I know this because Puri’s carer tested them to destruction). I couldn’t fault the treatment I received.

But the food? Ye gods. Light, easily digestible and healthy are all descriptives to avoid when it comes to hospital food in Spain. My last lunch, which is a pretty good example of the stuff presented generally, involved a plate piled with a random mixture of chick peas, chorizo, rabbit and lumps of luminous yellow potato, heavily laced with garlic. While this works well as a tapas dish in a restaurant, its post-operative effect on me was nothing short of vomit-inducing.


John ate well in hospital, anyway.


Snail’s pace

The rain in Spain has continued to be a pain for much of this week. Patchy it may be but light and refreshing it isn’t. The heavy and ominous clouds roll in menacingly from the west and the long grey tendrils descending from them can be seen to be lashing the countryside on approach long before their staccato sting can be felt. I have been obliged to drive up to Alicante airport and back twice in the last five days and I can honestly report that on both occasions I have actually seen waves on the surface of the motorway.

The downside of such aggressive precipitation whilst driving is that of necessity it slows me down considerably, and the journey that normally takes me just over an hour one way (as long as I stick to the new 110kph speed limit, that is) then takes considerably longer.

The upside is that the Spanish, unaccustomed as they are to driving in such conditions, fear the wet and tend to pull over onto the hard shoulder to sit it out while the heavens empty, leaving me my own personal three-lane road.

The inclement elements put paid too to the Semana Santa parade in Bullas on Sunday  (and, I understand, in many other towns) . Here it was summarily cancelled on the basis that the costumes (the inverted ice cream cones, or Klu Klux Klan outfits as they are popularly known) do not come with an aqualung as standard. So they will just have to stay in mothballs for another year, and the kids will have to do without the armfuls of free sweeties that are normally hurled about for their delectation during this parade.

Back at the finca, the rain has flushed out from the fields a gazillion snails that escape the waterlogged mud to gather on the camino. This makes driving along the camino at such times a decidedly crunchy experience, what with the slowly-advancing army of the snails themselves coupled with the hordes of Bullas gente who also gather in the camino and can commonly be seen stooping low to collect sackloads of the poor gastropods for the old paella.

The rain, while saving us considerable time (and cost) by negating the need to water the crops and the garden every day, has on the other hand made it difficult to get any work done outside while John has been here. We are in the throes of erecting a wooden pergola on the patio at the front of the house, in the hopes that we will have created some much-needed shade there come the uninterrupted summer sun. This pergola is to be built along the same lines as the porch, with railway sleepers forming the pillars, and large-section timbers for the beams.

The sleepers, laden with tar already, have been lying outside (in the rain) for some months now, and so have become sodden. This has made them even more ridiculously heavy than they already were. John, a firefighter, is quite capable of lifting heavy and awkward weights – a mere 5’8″, he is nonetheless a powerhouse and doesn’t flinch when hoisting a 20st man on his shoulder and descending a ladder with him. But even he found himself heaving and straining and turning purple to manhandle these sleepers into position, and I didn’t have a hope in hell of budging them.

We managed, though, mainly through John’s efforts, to place them correctly, albeit prone. Also to notch them all appropriately so that they are ready for the fitting-together stage of the main frame, which we hope can be carried out when John’s out next (weather permitting, of course). I don’t even want to think about the effort that is going to be involved in lifting them into the upright position and holding them steady until they are braced, but hey! No gain without pain, as they say. “They” being sadists, I expect.

I do glance out each morning to check, but alas thus far we haven’t been visited by the pergola fairies.

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