As I cycle slowly back into our home village of Alange I pass, as I would in many an Extremeñan pueblo, a row of elderly men sitting on a shady bench. Same men, same seats, every day that the weather permits. Due to the order-arms drill of their walking sticks and the judgemental gaze with which they greet every passing vehicle, Sue and I have come to refer to them as the Firing Squad. I wouldn’t call them that in public. Some of these old boys have already seen enough of such things.
Clouds have built steadily through this September afternoon, but the pavements and buildings radiate the heat they’ve been collecting all through the day. It’s still unmistakably summer weather, though the equinox has come and gone. My few companions on the road have been ancient, asthmatic tractors moving barely faster than I do, their battered trailers packed with melons or the last of the grapes. I decide to stop for a moment and take an unrewarding slurp from the water bottle, the contents now warm as bathwater. A nod is offered to the assembled company with a self-evident “hace calor, no?”