We had three days of rain in mid-September which previewed what would happen when the rain really started, i.e. the barn would leak, wind would drive water under the doors, the bathroom would be a lake, and the track dissolve. I watched the track dissolve with horror because the farm is pretty isolated. For instance it’s about 90 minutes to the main road, three hours walk to Zahara, so the track is pretty useful.
About 300 metres of it is on the property, curving down at a 45 degree angle from the house at the top to the place where a gate should be. The pictures don’t tell the story. It’s basically a mix of clay and rock with gullies and olive fields to either side. Beyond the non gate there is another gravelly drop, a tight bend (clay) over a culvert, a long stretch on a slant with tall, tough vegetation down the middle and big holes for the wheels to slot into, a wide mud bog bend with a deep red mud under water chaser, and eventually a blind summit made of sharp rocks, some deep, broken, concrete drainage channels, and the all clear of the schoolhouse and junction. As drive up you see nothing but sky; as you drive down bits come off the numberplate. This is partly why the farm was cheap.
After this there is a tarmac road, popular with tractors and vans pulling trailers of hunting dogs, which winds, and winds, and rolls over the mountains several miles to the road to Seville. To be honest it would all be a lot easier in something other than a right-hand drive Peugeot GTI but we can’t afford anything higher off the ground that actually starts.
Obviously I’d been well-happy to be a passenger-navigator, and wouldn’t have chosen to get back behind the wheel as the skies opened to unleash several months of rain, but for the fact Dave went to London and needed a lift to the airport in Jerez. I didn’t much like driving on the wrong side on roundabouts, bends, motorway slip roads at first. I spent the journey back struggling to convert miles to kilometres in order to avoid adding to our growing collection of speeding fines, and trying to recall what he’d said about avoiding getting stuck on the track. Was it roll it in neutral? Or put it in second and step on it? I don’t know. I got halfway up pretty fast sideways and then, feeling that was probably good enough, left the car under a tree where it sunk into the soil.
After hiking the rest of the way (with 10 litres of water and 2 litres of wine), I collected wood, lit a fire, and sat down with a drink, at which point a cat, Bob, trotted by briskly with a mouse dangling from his mouth –the first he’s ever caught. A phobia about cats torturing mice is part of the reason I wasn’t keen to get two. I made efforts to herd him and his captive prey outside but he wasn’t having any of it, given the rain. The life and death struggle continued at length behind the settee, from the bathroom, the bedroom, the stairs . . . audible even over the tedious Se Llama Copla, a singing competition always on the one channel we get when we get a channel at all. Afterwards I went in and dealt with the aftermath, swearing and whimpering as I gathered the mashed up remains and padded into the dark in my slippers to send them flying over the wall. But killing stuff, that’s what the cats are here for I suppose. Yes. Well done Bob.
A day of challenges though, and the chances are it’s not the last mouse or the last rain I’m going to see.