Identity Crisis


The neighbouring village has a street market each Tuesday morning. I often enjoy passing an hour or so there, even though I rarely buy anything. Today, instead of walking or cycling there, I’ve decided to drive, as rain has been forecast – I like to take exercise, but at heart I’m a lightweight. The heavy sky and erratic gusts back up the weatherman’s words, and I’m satisfied that on this occasion my laziness is justified. Sure enough, as I pass the poplar trees and white walls of the cemetery and head out of the village the first heavy drops splatter the windscreen and patter and pop on the roof. ... read more

The Guiri In The Red Suit

I’ve never been one for religions, myself.  Being too skeptical to have faith in anything (I’m not even completely convinced about the existence of Richard Dawkins), I’ve always held belief to be something that other people do, and that’s fine so long as they let me get out of the way first.  But even a card-carrying heathen like me has to be quietly impressed at some of the achievements; organised religions have built some cracking buildings, for example, and there’s nobody can hold a candle to them (ahem) for ceremony and ritual, whether you believe the rhetoric or consider it a work of fable. ... read more


“Maybe we should buy a mule.”

We have this conversation every time the car has to be inspected, repaired, insured or (in the most extreme and unthinkable of circumstances) cleaned. After all, we have the space, the garden could use the manure, and we live an easily clip-cloppable distance from the village. It all makes so much sense. A mule would be appropriate.

We fantasise light-heartedly about building her a corral beyond the chicken coup, grazing her up the mountainside, maybe getting hold of a cart or a two-wheeled gig. ... read more

Little Victories


The days are discouragingly short at this time of year.  At the moment we’re enjoying a run of bright, sunny days and chilly nights; when the breeze drops you’ll usually find me on the terrace, soaking up as much warmth as possible before the darkness descends, while either reading a novel or indulging in another favourite activity:

6 down. “A diversion in daddy’s day (7)”   PASTIME (pa’s time).

There have been one or two posts recently in the Spanish expat blogosphere asking what people miss from their home country.  For me, not a great deal – but if there is one thing in particular, it has to be the cryptic crossword.  A regular source of entertainment when I lived in the UK, that infuriating fifteen-by-fifteen grid was the perfect refuge when I’d bought the paper but couldn’t face the actual news just yet. ... read more

Under Instruction

I didn’t quite make it to the cafetería before the incoming squall hit the village. Not only am I now uncomfortably damp around the edges, but I’ve been relegated to the only available seat; next to the table where a small girl is treating her parents – and the rest of us – to a squealing, foot-stamping tantrum. I might just launch into one of my own in a minute.

To take my mind off the commotion I’m staring distractedly at the colour-printed A3 flyer that’s fallen out of the daily paper. One of the offers has attracted my attention; a sleek, silver-grey monolith that boasts (it says here) WiFi connectivity, USB 3.0, 200 mega-wossnames of data transfer, plus a whole host of acronyms announcing its many other talents. I want to buy one, I really do. If only they’d tell me what the darned thing is. Hard drive? Router? Sandwich toaster? I have no idea. The vendors have a catchphrase about not being tonto, but clearly I am; and I’m supposed to be tech-savvy. ... read more

The Man on the Mérida Omnibus

“What time does the bus go to Mérida?” I ask a middle aged lady standing in what I hope is the bus queue.

It’s an easy enough phrase to get right, even with my less than perfect Spanish. Still, she looks at me as though I’ve just asked her to reupholster my tortoise.

“Well … it’ll be … the same as always … ” she stammers.

Clearly she has never heard the question asked outright. This common knowledge is as deeply engraved into the local world-view as though, sometime on the sixth day, the almighty stopped fooling about with Adam’s ribs for long enough to create the morning service from Guareña to Mérida, calling at La Zarza and Alange. ... read more

The Early Bird

I don’t usually get up this early. Alan, our rescue greyhound, opens one eye for a moment before deciding that there’s no threat to the household; or if there is, then Dad can deal with it as he’s up now anyway. He yawns luxuriously, breaks wind and settles back to sleep. So much for the Rapid Response Unit.

For the next twenty minutes the only sound to be heard is that of a half-asleep man being as quiet as possible – a cacophony, in other words, of wardrobe doors, crockery, window blinds, and poorly suppressed profanity. ... read more

Through the Looking Glass

There’s an edge to the air this morning, and a blueness to the light, as though someone turned down the colour control a little. I’m paying little attention as I scan the newspaper headlines on the way to my usual breakfast haunt.

As I turn the corner, though, something isn’t right. The tables from the terrace are stacked, the awning rolled away, and the glazed doors closed. The phony colours of a television flicker through the misted window, and the only customer in sight stays outside for no longer than it takes to finish a morning cigarette. ... read more



Today I started to think about how I was going to build the greenhouse, but I didn’t get very far. This often seems to happen these days when I sit down with the intention of working out some particular problem; my mind seems to slide off the subject and head off on a mission of its own. I can’t remember the exact chain of wacky reasoning this time – something to do with the cost, durability and expected life span of the finished building – but I ended up wondering how to do the same calculations for my own future … and, in particular, how long that future might turn out to be? ... read more

El Taller Mecánico


Even with directions, the mechanic’s workshop proves tricky to find. After the sports hall take a left, go down the cobbled slope, turn right at the salón de fiestas, along the street, and it’s down there somewhere on your left.

The premises, when I finally track them down, hide behind two adjacent garage doors in an old residential terrace of unremarkable, white-rendered buildings. The doors are open, a radio is playing fuzzily, and a couple of vehicles stick their rumps out on to the poorly-surfaced street. ... read more