The road to hell may indeed be paved with good intentions, but at least it got paved, so I reckon it’s about time my own ‘good intentions’ were placed into some sort of order. That’s why today finds me wandering around the property with a ballpoint and a notepad, diligently documenting what the locals would call desperfecciones. (The rural Spanish are not as easily intimidated as I am. A collapsed roof, a stone wall reduced to rubble, or a half-acre field flooded by a blocked culvert will be casually dismissed by them as a desperfección).
As a gesture toward progress, the ayuntamiento has painted lines and numbers along the gutters of Calle Pilar, dividing the site of the weekly market into designated plots. As a gesture of complete indifference, the merchants have ignored all of this and once again erected their stands exactly as they’ve seen fit. The ensuing riotous assembly marks each Tuesday morning in our neighbouring village.
Of course, there’s a lot of shopping done at these events; above all, though, something is happening, and for many that in itself is an excuse to turn out. There are enthusiastic and rapid-fire conversations over the parked pushchairs and shopping trolleys; despite the chilly weather, various firing squads have assembled on the benches by the fountain; the lottery merchant is doing good trade as he wanders through the throng, greeting familiar faces with a word or a nod. I’m hungry, having left the house without any breakfast, and intent on correcting this as soon as possible.
I try to lower my wide-brimmed hat and pull up my coat collar even further, but I know I’m wasting my time. Not only is the rain now persistent enough to find a way through any undone fastener or poorly-waxed seam, but I’m already sufficiently wet through for it not to really matter.
Wet winter days can be tough here in the Spanish campo. Back in the UK, cold, wet weather was pretty much expected from around September to April (though as this replaced the slightly less cold, wet weather of May to August, the exact moment of switch-over could be hard to spot). Here, in contrast, the climate has geared our life much more toward outdoors, and these days of dismal deluge that seem to appear from nowhere often leave me, as has happened today, pacing bored around the finca, finally deciding – or being told by Sue, somewhere around my twentieth lap – to go out for a walk. Or, in fact, anywhere.
I want to make it clear that this is not, in any way, a defeat.
It’s simply a tactical withdrawal, after which we’ll regroup and return stronger, better prepared, and with a winning strategy. Sometimes you have to arrive at a negotiation; lose a little to gain a little more. Now the charts and diagrams have all been pored over, strengths and weaknesses assessed, what-if scenarios played out in grim detail. Now it’s time for feet on the ground. So with boots on, radio activated and earphones in, the moment has come to enter the arena.