28. The English prisoner
The track down the valley that served all our holdings was a mess and after several meetings, the local track committee which included me decided that we would repair it as best we could. The town hall offered cold tar seal for the steeper bits as long as we provided the labour and off we all went to work. At least the menfolk did. Wearing our shabbiest clothes and armed with machetes, spades and other assorted implements, we hacked away undergrowth and overhanging vegetation, filled holes with dirt from mounds, and pulled sticky black tar out of the town council truck and filled more holes with it. It was hot sweaty work. Hard labour in fact and in rough gear, and sweating like pigs, we certainly looked like a chain gang, even if no chains were in evidence.
The track was often used by tourists as a rambling track. These old routes now abandoned to new roads, wound their way through the countryside from small village bar to small village bar. As we were working, just such a group of English ramblers approached us. They asked my colleagues for the direction of Corte Concepcion, the small hamlet several kilometres past our house, and hearing that they had difficulty with their Spanish, my friends passed them on to me. Wiping sweat from my brow and smearing myself with dirt in the process, I chatted to them for a while and told them where the route to Corte branched off the main track. As they were leaving, one said to me; “many thanks for that, but it’s a shame to see you like this. Couldn’t they find a place for you in an English prison!”
Finally at 3 pm after working since 6 am, we declared the job well done. And the women folk arrived with hampers overflowing with fine meats, fine sausages and breads, and an almost unlimited amount of beer and wine. We settled down and began a feast. The wine flowed in abundance and they all had a laugh at the English prisoner. At 5, David the glass man (pronounced Daveed in Spanish) suggested we go and measure up the glass for our front door before wine and ambience took over and we forgot all about the task. (I had already). We hastened off, measured up swiftly, had a quick beer or two to celebrate and returned equally as swiftly to the festivities. Two weeks later, David returned with the glass itself; all 48 panes of it, and needless to say not a single pane fitted.
Meanwhile life on the finca continued. Lucy and our next door neighbour’s boy Jamil played on their pirate boat, rode around on Gitana (Gypsy), picked figs and peaches, and even on occasion helped me with the bees. Their electricity –less, computer-less life at home bothered them not a bit and our life was livened up with evenings of puppet theatre and magic shows, and maybe a good play, if we could get the World Service.