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?
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.
The time of day in Spain has always seemed to me a little anachronistic. All of the surrounding countries, such as Portugal, UK and Morocco, are on Western European time (UTC), as geography dictates; they are all situated around, or slightly to the west of the Greenwich Meridian.
Spain, on the other hand, adheres to Central European time (UTC+01:00) as do France, Italy and Germany, despite the fact that Spain lies, for the most part, west of Greenwich.
Current Economy Minister Luis de Guindos wants that changed, and has issued a recommendation (PDF) that the Spanish government consider switching to the more appropriate zone.
Behind our house the land rises quickly into the Sierra de Peñas Blancas, an east-to-west ridge of exposed rocky outcrops. Clambering up there during the height of summer would be, at best, uncomfortable – there’s no shade at all – but with the onset of more autumnal weather I decide to take a short hike up the stony track that winds through the gorse and scrub to reacquaint myself with the rugged landscape up there.
It’s hard to imagine how anybody could make any use of this wilderness, but some hardy souls eke out a living of sorts, grazing sheep or goats. The occasional square sign denoting a particular tract as coto deportivo de caza (hunting land) serves to remind me that anybody else I run into up here may well be armed. I congratulate myself on having worn a bright colour.
“If you’re planning to take the Los Santos road, part of it’s down to one-way traffic. They’re resurfacing.”
Our host has already lived here in Extremadura for a few years. As novices, we’re glad of his advice.
“Are there temporary traffic lights?”
He snorts at me. “Out here? Nah, they’ll be using the stick.”
From our blank stares it’s clear we have no idea what he’s talking about.
“When you’re waiting at the roadworks because of oncoming traffic, eventually you’ll see someone coming through holding a stick out of the driver’s window. He was the last one waiting – after he passes, your queue is free to start going through. He’ll then slow down and give the stick to the driver of the last car in your queue, so it can all be done again at the other side.”