Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Ides of March

The toilets at Beeston YMCA used to get vandalised a lot in March. My caretaker had a theory. Winter should be over, Spring tantalises us - snowdrops, daffs and the occasional day when the sun shines but then, bang, freezing cold, driving rain - winter all over again. The youngsters didn't think it was fair, they'd been cooped up too long and they took it out on the toilets.

I think that same effect is why I haven't been writing blog pieces. We're waiting for something to change. So this is a rather contrived entry. And it's too long.

Our house is in Culebrón in Alicante and our rented flat is in Cartagena in Murcia. Some 110kms or 90 minutes journey time separates the two. We do the journey frequently coming back to Culebrón as often as we can mainly so the cat can have a bit of a run around and murder smaller animals.

So, down our track and on to the twin carriageway road up to Pinoso hedged in by vines, almonds and solar panels. Into town, into Pinoso. At 7.10 in the morning the bus for Alicante picking up, the Ecuadorian day workers waiting for their lift to work. With a population of just 8,000 it's small so we're soon out of town heading across the rolling countryside and heading for Fortuna. We pass a couple of bodegas where the grapes from the vineyards are turned into the local red wines - usually palatable and strong but hardly masterpieces of the craft. The road winds and drops down into Murcia with the marble quarry that supported the town, until this recession hit, behind our left shoulder. Nothing special about the road, hardly any traffic at any time of the day, maybe a bit busier than usual with the early commuters. As we get on towards the village of Salado Alto the landscape becomes John Wayne like all grey dust, cañons and solitary hills. We've been dropping since we left Pinoso and as we turn and twist on the badly surfaced road that takes us down to Mahoya we're still going downhill. Mahoya is great, it's a non descript village on some back road to nowhere but at whatever time of day or night we pass the two bars there seem to be open and busy. Over the dry river bed and into a couple of roundabouts on the outskirts of Abanilla then right onto the Santomera road. There are orange trees now because we're lower but this road is lined with metal box buildings, galvanisers, tyre places, paving stone manufacturers and big restaurants - the sort used for wedding receptions and communions. Lots of roundabouts and then right onto the A7 motorway, the road that runs in and out of Barcelona and follows the coast of the Med all the way down to the Costa del Sol.

It's light by now as we slip into the traffic and head into the outskirts of Murcia city. Nueva Condomina stadium and shopping centre to the right, Thader shopping centre to the left as we start to juggle with the traffic. The speed restrictions say 80 but the traffic wants to do 100. Take your choice, stay relatively legal and become a traffic hazard or go with the flow. Somewhere in this blur of traffic we've moved onto the A30 and there's the sign that says 50kms to go. It's around 8.10 if we're on time. Past the last dodgy intersection, the final one where cars cut from the outside lane across three lanes to take their turn off. We start to climb. We're only going up to 340 metres but it's a steep hill. We're passing through pine forests now. At the top the view opens up. As we begin to drop the motorway divides and we keep left, heading for the coastal plain. The crops have changed again, some oranges but lots more green stuff, market gardens. The sun coming up from the East is in my eyes but the road's nice - that dark tarmac with new sharp white lines and the traffic has thinned out after the melee of Murcia. It's a straight run, past the old crop sprayer biplane, past the scrap yard with classic cars for sale. Some ten kilometres out of Cartagena we take the turn and end up on an urban dual carriageway surrounded by a motley collection of industrial buildings. As we pass the almost derelict shacks where single light bulbs burn and sad washing hangs on improvised lines we're almost into town. We head into the residential areas with cars parked all over the place, with blind views on right angled junctions and pedestrians happy to assert their rights on the multitude of zebra crossings. There's the school, pull up in the road outside, Maggie collects her things, a quick peck. See you later.

Eddie and I do the last kilometre or so alone, park up on the waste ground and let ourselves in to the block of flats where we live. From Culebrón and the countryside to Barrio Peral and town life.

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