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 29, 2014

Catetos and country bumpkins

There's nothing going on. A pretty typical Saturday but, lost for anything to write, I hatched a cunning plan. I'd talk about nothing.

This plan came to me just after I'd collected the mail and as I washed the car, Maggie's car to be precise. We have a post box on the house but deliveries in the countryside are a bit haphazard. Safer a PO box in the town Post Office. We also have water and space to wash a car at our house in Culebrón. Today I was just being lazy. For many Spaniards though the Sunday morning car wash ritual, beloved of so much of suburban Britain, is unrealisable. Most people here, after all, live in flats, not everybody, but the majority. So getting a bucket of water to your car isn't easy. Anyway several towns have local bye-laws prohibiting street car washing. Pinnoso being a typical example. This means that there are lots of car washing bays in petrol stations all over Spain. In contrast to the UK where I remember that the tunnel wash with rotating brushes was the most common here those lance type power washers that lift off paint are the usual offer.

The car freshly washed I went  to buy some gas - in a bottle. We country folk don't have piped gas. Butane in 12.5kg cylinders is the norm. I bought the gas from the shop at the local co-operative bodega which has a decidedly agricultural theme. Safety footwear and parts for irrigation systems rub shoulders with tinned sardines and chocolate bars. I asked if they had any liquid for killing the picudo rojo, the beetle that wants to eat our palm tree. They did and I bought some. I got some cashew nuts too and a bottle of brandy.

I shouldn't have needed the insecticide. I know a man who has some, a man that I've hired twice already to douse the tree in some nasty chemicals that apparently mash up the neural pathway of the beetle beasties. Approximately six weeks ago he and I made a vague arrangement that I would contact him before the weekend for the "every 45 days" treatment. Do it via a message he said. It's easier for me. I loved him. Messages in Spanish are so much easier than phone calls. I sent him a message. I sent him a second. He didn't reply. I phoned. No answer. I phoned again and this time he answered. He was specific but vague - Saturday morning, I'll confirm the time on Saturday. He didn't phone to confirm. He didn't turn up. 

I know that plumbers, carpenters, gas fitters and insect slaughterers all over the world fail to turn up to the majority of their appointments. There is, though, something fatalistically Spanish about the process. The non answered messages and the vague phone call are a routine stratagem. 

On a separate tack I have been trying to find out how long in advance I need to book a trip for the oversubscribed visits to the Cota Doñana National Park. The company that runs one of the trips has a website with a "contact us" online form. I've used the form, I've had the confirmation of receipt of the message but I've had no reply. I resent the message, just in case. The third time I asked them why they bothered with a contact form if they never responded. I asked if they were public employees and consequently out for breakfast (this is a Spanish joke.) The truth is I wasn't in the least surprised. It was just a first sally. I knew that I would have to phone just as I know that there will be a vagueness about the eventual booking. We will have to trust to luck as we set out for a destination 700kms from home. 

So, back to today, I climbed up the ladder, which wasn't quite long enough, weighed down by a back pack type spray gun that weighed in at around 20kg and requires both hands to operate. I wobbled and sprayed the tree. I had to do that with 45 litres of the stuff. It took over two hours and it nearly killed me. The chemicals were running down my arms, soaking my back, dribbling into my hair. I was wearing a mask, gloves and overalls but I felt the need for a change of clothes and a shower afterwards. Ah!, country pleasures.

Anyway, as it is a typical Saturday now for the telly. I usually end up watching a programme on La Sexta in which pundits and journalists shout at each other and especially at an economist with a strange accent. It's compulsive viewing particularly with a packet of cashew nuts and half a bottle of brandy to hand. We country folk are easily amused.

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