– 2016 New Year up-date

a simpler life el pocito almonaster la real 04

For those interested in the nitty-gritty of day-to-day life here, I thought it was time to once again describe how it feels to be here, rather than my usual rant against the madness in the world which I have no control over. Especially as someone from the UK who has deliberately chosen to live in a very different way/ place/ and culture.

Now global warming has become a proven reality, instead of hypothetical possibility, we are experiencing the effects. Here Autumn is just drawing to a close and I guess Winter will begin. Record temperatures during the last two months have meant a “third” Spring for us, with vigorous plant growth both in leaf and flower. The bees (and wasps!) have also been very active. What will happen next is anyone’s guess.

At least the days are getting longer. I assumed that this happens at an even rate, but apparently not. Mornings remain stubbornly dark until about 8.30am, though sunset is now at 6.30pm.

I am being kept busy with more than enough jobs in the garden. There is the endless cleaning for fire prevention of the weeds around the 600m perimeter, which then form the basis for Jean Pain compost heaps/ terracing the hillside (again, a lifetime’s work)/ plus cleaning around and coppicing the 100+ olive trees/ then if there is any time left in the day, sawing firewood.

It was hoped that in 2015 there would be chickens and donkeys installed at El Pocito, mainly for the diversity, but also to help keep down the weeds and increase compost. I got as far as designing the housing for the chickens, but stumbled over suitable protection for them from predators. I do not agree on penning animals, and couldn’t work out how to make a movable run. The donkeys await finding a suitable owner who wants to use this land for pasture.

Discovering the olive trees was a big boost to my morale. I’ve lived here for seven years, working on the land every day, and had no idea of their existence. The previous owners must have felled them to plant pines instead/ breed pigs, but finally they have begun to re-appear, in neat orderly lines.

I also have as many, probably more, strawberry trees (arbutus unedo). In southern Portugal the fruits of these are used (illegally) to make aguardiente. If anyone knows the recipe I would like to know it.

Same goes for information on how to build a simple water heater using the flue of my wood-stove. I’ve not had hot water for sixteen years, but in my 60th year would like to enjoy this luxury (plus a bathroom) if it was possible for little outlay. If anyone reading this can help with first-hand experience please get in touch.

Financially, the year ended on a good note. Despite the UK government “stealing” my entitlement (both our NI contributions) to a widow’s pension, and the Spanish government doing a similar thing with their emergency aid benefit, I managed to survive without any. Earning 750 euros from teaching english and spending a total of 2000 euros. The deficit was met by kind gifts from friends and supporters. Still a way to go until I can totally support myself, but having got spending down this low is impressive. Considering inflation is around 25% and most people spend a hell of lot less to get through the same 365 days.

Psychologically is the only worry. I am still not in a good place in this regard. When Maureen died, many (oh so many) said “time is a great healer”. Well they weren’t talking from personal experience. If anything my loss is not greater. The only consolation being I now meet with her every night in my dreams. I seriously doubt now that I will ever feel “alive” again. Or stop wanting to be sick every morning. Be afraid to drive outside the town’s limits. Regain all the weight I have lost. Maureen was everything. With her we could and did do anything. She made me brave/ strong/ tireless. We fitted together seamlessly. Life with her was always full of fun/ laughter/ creativity/ music/ crazy schemes/ great food/ in a word: perfection. Now all that has gone. To be replaced by fear/ loneliness/ sadness/ and insecurity. I feel like I am trapped in a bubble, unable to touch/ taste/ hear/ or interact with the world around me. Probably just what it feels like to be on anti-depressants.

I miss her so much. Like being able to cut her hair, which she let me do for 30 years, including a huge white Mohican she wore when she was Associate Director of the WEST YORKSHIRE PLAYHOUSE. But most of all the creative partnership. Making things together. For two years there has been none of that. I’m not a craftsperson, in that I don’t specialise in one thing, more of an artist, ready to invent whatever is required in whatever medium. That I sorely want to return to.

Other than that I am fine. Currently short of a few essential warm winter clothes, if anyone has some they can spare. The nearest second-hand clothes shop is in Sevilla (120kms away), and twice I have made the trip to return with nothing. I need cargo/ combat trousers (military type with pockets) in a thick durable material, for cycling into town daily, waist size 32-34”/ 42” outside leg. Any colour that doesn’t show the mud (not black). Also warm cords for wearing around the house, again any colour that is practical. I prefer conventional styling (nothing fashionable please) and straight leg (not fitted).

Finally I must report on something that really upset me this week. The Almonaster town council ordered the rounding-up and execution of all the town’s cats. Not content with promoting bullfighting and the ham industry, this is an appalling act against intelligent beings. Yet another sign the lunatics are running the asylum. Franco is not dead, he has just got his family running things instead.

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