Sunday, August 21, 2011
Bédar is a small white village in the high hills of the Sierra de los Filabres, overlooking the wide plain of Los Gallardos, Antas and Turre which is rimmed on the other side by the concurrence of a few descending mountains, the final one covered by the white cubed houses of Mojácar, with the Mediterranean Sea beyond. Bédar was a mining village, peopled in its day by the Moors, and re-discovered by the British in the 1880s when they set about opening up a number of hills between Águilas and Bédar looking for iron, copper, silver and other minerals.
There was just the one bar, run by Pedro, an old man with a large chin who shuffled about in his carpet slippers and spoke a few words of broken English. That first time my parents and I went up there and had lunch, a paella possibly spiced with cat, washed down by glasses of Green Fish (a popular kind of Spanish gin, made in Murcia) with warm Fanta orange. The mayor happened by and, as far as my father could make out, introduced him to his hermano who may have sold him a line of village houses for 60 pounds. ‘I’ve either bought a house off somebody called Herman,’ my father admitted to his friends in Mojácar later that day, ‘or I had a very expensive lunch in that village up there’, gesturing vaguely towards the hills.
There were a few foreigners living in Bédar at the time, including a Dutchman and his Moroccan wife. The Dutchman collared my father the next time he braved the dusty track up to the small village. ‘You don’t want to live in this place’, he said, ‘there’s this mad Dutchman who has a house here and doesn’t like Englishmen’. ‘How interesting’, said my father, ordering another round of gin, ‘and what a curious accent. Where are you from?’
An elderly British poet called John Roberts lived in a house around the back of the village, in an area known as the Gypsy Quarter, with his mother. At the time of buying his place, he had neglected to buy off all of the family owners, inheritors in equal parts from some old miner, long taken to his reward. This meant that Roberts shared his house not only with his mum, long time suffering from dementia, but with a truculent couple who weren’t clear if they were gypsies or not, but knew that they didn’t like foreigners.
Howard the American hippie lived in the surviving wing of a ruin further round to the left. He smoked dope and lived off provisions he obtained from friends close to the American Forces PX in
A British couple, retired as I remember from a rubber plantation in
‘To my friend Bill Napier, on the occasion of his birthday,
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Pizza in the Pueblo
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Making an Entrance
Saturday, August 06, 2011
In our small corner of enchantment, we are accustomed to occasional swells and troughs in the local population of varmints. An English-language newspaper recently mentioned the plague of flies which had swarmed out of nowhere, covering the outside in unbelievable numbers. Yet, by the time the report came out, the mass of flies had gone, returning to the usual status quo, which is a nuisance rather than a serious bother. Where did they all go to? Unlike the Chinese, who were reputedly told to kill a hundred a day, no doubt on pain of having their own wings pulled off, we manage to avoid keeping tally, relying on an aerosol spray to do the job.
I once bought a trap for flies, a plastic pack crowned with a hook and a cardboard landing area and with a small lump of damp rhinoceros shit secreted in the bowels of the package. A sure-fly success with the moscas. Within days I had about a kilo of dead and rotting flies in my swollen bag, hanging in the arbour. I had to bury the whole stinking mess at the bottom of the garden. A few grasshoppers came along to mourn.
One summer we have a plague of mosquitoes; another time – as this year – there don’t seem to be any. We may have locusts, a plague of them stripped Mojácar in 1906 causing a catastrophic famine here, or it may be a simple swelling in the population of fleas, or scorpions, or mice. This comes about either because the particular thing which eats them happens to be in a decline that year, or because the particular thing which the plague eats, happens to be in abundance. Nature will eventually balance things out, saving the environmentalists or the household bottle of insecticide the trouble. Our current problem with the palm tree beetle is that, because it comes from foreign parts, there is no local creature that likes to snack on it. Give it time.
At the moment, in our neighbourhood, we are troubled by ants. They are those little ones which like sweet things and, as we found out yesterday, they have a particular regard for Sugar Puffs. A long line of them crossed the floor of the kitchen, headed for the larder. Meanwhile, a rather more obvious line of pieces of cereal was jauntily marching along the other way, out the door and down a hole on the terrace.
We are also currently blessed with woodlice: also apparently known as ‘roly polies’. The Spanish ones are nevertheless rarely able to roll into a ball, and prefer to lie on their backs with all of their legs waving futilely in the air as they wait for someone, unknowingly, to pass by and grant them release from this vale of tears. ‘Crunch, crunch yuck!’ as one of the kids said with disgust last time we had the problem with this particularly pointless pest, around twenty-five years ago.
But plagues are always a short-term problem, controlled by the natural rhythm of the seasons. With a little patience on our part, we know that even the tourists will soon be gone and we will once again be able to enjoy our evenings without being obliged to wear some repellent.