JULY 2006 . . . SPAIN
Just like always, I'm several years behind the times. I recently discovered myspace.com and have been enthralled with the selection of videoclips you can view there. Here's a couple that I just had to share with you...
BEWARE THE RED LIGHT CAMERA!
NEVER SMILE AT A CROCODILE! (Do not watch this one if you are the least bit squeamish or sensitive. You have been warned.
JULY 2006 . . . SPAIN
I was going to begin this journal with the words "You'll never believe where I am", but then I realized that by the time you read this, I will most likely be back in Madrid, and considering that has been my home for very nearly two years now, my being there would be far from unbelievable. But as I write this journal, I am sitting on the hard concrete floor of an abandoned stone farmhouse in the mountains of Andalucia- a concrete floor that I myself poured two years ago, in the furious heat of July 2004. How could I have ever dreamt when I left here two years ago, that I would one day return, breaking my back with heavy work in the arid heat, sleeping on a concrete floor, doing my laundry in a cement mixer, and living on a diet of sandwiches and cold tinned meatballs.
As I write, the cloud of flies lazily circling above the pile of crumpled clothes that I like to think of as my 'bed' is so thick that if I flipped a coin in the air, I would have (besides the equal 50% chance of it coming up either heads or tails) a better than even chance of hitting a fly. The super dooper sized can of 'insecticida' purchased at the village store only seems to attract more flies by its sweet scent. But it's almost 9:00 pm, and if the local fly population is planning to follow their regular routine, they will soon make a mass exit. That heralds the arrival of the mosquitos, which successfully foil my first couple of hours of attempted sleep. How could I have neglected to bring an insect net? Not to mention either of the two roll-on sticks of 'tropical strength' repellant that are safely sitting on the shelf back in Madrid.
I'm exhausted and my muscles are aching, especially my shoulders, forearms and butt muscles. Days here in Chercos are filled with the excitement of pushing wheelbarrows full of sand up the steep, rocky driveway. I've been here seven days now. Seven days of concreting, plasterboarding and tiling. My workmate this time is an Englishman, Colin- a Jordie if that makes any difference- whose conversation centres around his buggered back, the heat, his current state of knackeredness, how much he's sweating, and of course his favourite "these bastard twatting flies!", which he continues to waste an enormous amount of energy trying to kill, even after a full week here and no noticeable reduction in the fly population after the ten or twelve that he has successfully dispatched. Colin drinks four cups of coffee and smokes six cigarettes before he starts work each morning. He runs the small crackly radio on full volume every minute of the day, whether it is successfully picking up a station or just catching a faint pulsating hint of unidentifiable music through the ear shattering static.
I have a total of twenty-six songs saved on my laptop, so I fall asleep every night to the tones of either Cat Stevens, Fat Boy Slim, The Animals, Moby, Simon and Garfunkel, Groove Armada, Otis Redding, Tenacious D, or Cake.
How I ever ended up with such a selection I have no idea. But I do know that I never want to hear any of these songs again after I leave here on Friday.
That's right, five more days work left. Two rooms left to tile, a number of walls to render and plaster, a couple of rooms to paint, a kitchen to install, and a multitude of little 'finishing off' jobs (or 'mincing' jobs as Colin calls them) to complete. Five days. Two or three more tonnes of sand to barrow up the hill. Fifty to seventy bites from vicious horseflies or marchflies. Five more sausage and cheese sandwiches. Five more tins of meatballs. Twenty-five more litres of bottled water. Perhaps a few more blisters.
Yesterday, Colin and I had both run out of bread, and you might know you can't make much of a sandwich without bread. So I trudged off to the village, two kilometres away. The bakery, still unsigned and anononymous as it was two years ago (I always figured the baker was just waiting for his sign to arrive from the signwriter's) was closed, but I knew where the baker's house was, on the next block. His front door was wide open, apart from the ubiquitous fly strips -why don't we have those blinds on our old farmhouse- but my knocking went unanswered. Fearing another twenty-four hours of breadless sandwiches, I knocked harder and called out "Hola" as loudly as I could without startling the neighbours. Neighbours, startled or not began to amass curiously at their doorways and balconies, not too shy to stare at me the way one would stare at Osama Bin Laden if he was knocking on the baker's door. After too many attempts, I surrendered and footed it to the nearest bar, where of course I found the baker, playing cards with his amigos. He greeted me with a fierce slap on the shoulder and asked how the work on the house was going. I was too tired to exercise my pathetic Spanish vocabulary, so just said 'bien' and gave a gesture that signified that I was weary. I asked if it was possible to buy bread, and he smiled at the though of getting rid of a couple of loaves of leftover stock. He vaulted onto his quad bike that was conveniently blocking half the doorway to the bar, and blatted the throttle around to his shop, all of thirty metres away, returning about ninety seconds later with two 'barras' (baguettes) and a bag containing a couple of pastries, hoping he could upsell the original 1.20 Euro sale. But I wasn't in the mood for sweet pastries, so I just paid him his 1.20 Euros and headed back to the casa to make a sandwich.
I never want to see meatballs again.
You can see some before and after photos of the house here.