24. Journeys in Spain
David Cramp | On 04, Nov 2012
Every journey I took in Spain had that element of adventure in it and even if I set off with a definite outcome in mind, something usually occurred to knock me off track but also to give me a deepening insight into the country and the mindset of its people.
Before finding the Mill of the Bassdrum to purchase I travelled over to a small town called Constantina to the North of Seville to see if there were any properties over that way. Named after the Roman emperor Constantine, it was a small, pretty town, but one that had suffered greatly during the civil war.
After Almaden de la Plata, I took a turn which pointed to Constantina but which said that the road had been cut off by the Rio Viar. I wasn’t sure then why I went along this route knowing that I would be wasting my time, but something pulled me that way. I kept going and around ten miles down the road I passed a ruined road house. These buildings were built to house road workers when the roads were built and sealed, but that was long ago.
This one caught my eye because of its classic Andalucian style. It really was beautiful and even though ruined and with no roof or window glass, I thought I’d stop and look around. It was a fine, warm day with blue skies and no wind at all and I walked round the building and entered near the back through a large ornate door. And as I walked into the ruin, a definite murmur of voices filled the empty single room.
I looked around but there was nothing except the roofless room and the blue sky above, but the murmur grew in intensity and suddenly what seemed like a physical wall of horror and outrage hit me. It was as though thousands of people were communicating their suffering, anger and aggression to me.
I am a very practical sort of person and haven’t though much about the supernatural but there was simply no way of understanding what was going on. Once, many years previously, in one of my more stupid moments, I managed to get stuck in a strip of minefield. Minefields are bad, lonely, scary places because you know that death is all around you but you don’t quite know where. A millimetre away or 6 feet! It’s best not to move around to find out. But the fear I felt in that minefield was nothing like the sheer horror that I felt all around me in that room. It filled my mind like one of those terrifying nightmares.
Then that same physical force, fed by the thousands of voices of outrage was pushing me back, out of the building and the thought came into my head saying that I had no right to be there. It was telling me to get out. I didn’t need any further encouragement.
The original and genuine meaning of the term ‘horror stricken’ must have come from situations like this. I turned and fled, dropped the car keys in the grass and scrabbled around on the ground looking for them, whimpering generally, then I couldn’t get the key in the lock and then the car wouldn’t start and the horror kept coming in waves and then the fearless beekeeper was sweating like hell and almost frightened to death.
Then the noise dropped away, the car started and I did a boy racer take off down the road. I came to the Viar and had to turn around. I didn’t want to pass that ruin again but had to and when I came upon it, it was as though nothing had occurred. All was peace and quiet – not that I went in again to tempt those horrors back.
I have always wondered exactly what had gone on in that house for there to be so much terror, but I never found out and probably don’t want to. I can’t explain what happened then but often wondered if I was meant to have done something for those terrible voices. What exactly, I don’t know, but in my mind it is unfinished business still.
We needed these to make a roof with. They are proof against everything and extremely strong – ideal for termite proof roof beams.
I set off with Alvaro the lorry driver at 5.30 in the morning and we drove straight to the bar round the corner for an anise and coffee and a gossip. 10 minutes later we set off again and got as far as 300 yards before Ernesto’s bar came in sight.
A brandy each and we again set off again and reached the next village where a bar serving dripping on toast and of course another brandy caused us to stop again and so on to Rio Tinto which we reached at 7 for a second breakfast.
I like Rio.
The British Victorian housing and the English club and church and the general air of an massive, heavy industry quite divorced from my own peaceful existence. The open cast mines are vast affairs and the topography resembles a reddish moonscape. The old, colonial style British mines hospital is now a museum and the new, ugly, modern hospital is attached to it. I can’t complain about it too much however because I’ve spent a fair bit of time there for one thing and another and our younger daughter was born there. I used to visit Anna at mealtimes because the food was so good – and the hospital bar was a first class establishment.
We pressed on and rolled into the electricity board station at Moguer at 8, nearly two hours late and were greeted by a furious accomplice who offered us a swift brandy whilst we waited for another truck to clear the loading area. Loading 19 telegraph poles is a very tiring business and it took another two hours to complete by which time, Alvaro had consumed a fair bit more. Cash was furtively exchanged and off we went.
The way back was easier than going though – at least at first. Alvaro was in full flow, well lubricated and eager to get home. It was only when he pulled off into a field that I asked him why we were going cross country. “The police mustn’t see us senor”. There are more of them about at this time of day. Earlier they would all have been in the bar like us”. Of course I thought, he doesn’t want to be breathalysed, and I asked him if he reckoned he had had too much to drink as he was reeking with alcohol and definitely about ten times over the limit at least. “No, not at all” he laughed. “It’s just that my papers are slightly out of date for the truck”.
“How far out of date?”
“Oh just a little bit but you know the Guardia. They get upset at anything.”
After several more enquiries – and evasive answers, I said, “where are your papers then? Here in the truck? I’ll have a look at them myself.”
The truck papers”.
“Ah, the truck papers? The actual papers themselves? Well this truck doesn’t actually have any to be truthful Ingles. Papers? No, no papers. None at all. There. You have it”. He slurred and drove on across the field, looking glum
”Well that’s alright then”, I said. I was relieved. I knew the too much alcohol wouldn’t be an issue. Someone I knew had been stopped by the Guardia and when they opened the door for him, he fell out onto the ground in a drunken stupor and they duly fined him heavily because his papers were out of date. They did not like papers to be out of date and with no papers at all, Alvaro would be on death row at least. But now, if we were going over fields and so on, my beams would be safe. The Guardia would be watching the roads and Alvaro’s lack of papers wouldn’t cause my poles to be confiscated along with the truck. A wise man, Alvaro!
The rest of the journey took hours. Fields, tracks, farm yards, hills with desperately narrow tracks and steep drops and more fields, plus minimal roads when we had to.
Alvaro knew the way well and his only grumble was that there were no bars in fields. But eventually we got home and by now very much brightened because I had been happy with his papers business, Alvaro helped a very relieved Anna and I unload the poles.
The next day though we had to get them across the river and that was a much more difficult proposition. But once over, we could start on building a roof and that would be quite something