We’ve been living here in the delightful little village of La Fresneda, our village, for nearly five weeks now, it will be the first of our visits of 2014 – we plan to return in September, travelling via Poland for a change. So, what’s new in Spain?
Well, I’ve been to a beer festival! It was held in the main town of our area, Valderrobres, and it was a first. Differences: there was no real ale, there were lots of unaccompanied children, there was a very noisy Irish band with bagpipes, drums and whistle, nearly everyone was smoking, nearly everyone was shouting. The beer was mostly artensal, a word that conjures images of idyllic people picking idyllic hops and malting their own barley with love, but actually means that it is not produced by San Miguel, or Estrella. It was also mostly ‘orribley’. The only brew that stands out in my memory was called Evil Wedding (yes, in English, the founder had a pop group by that name) and was the nearest thing to used engine oil that I have tasted (not that I have, of course). Most beers were cloudy (its artensal, so its natural ain’t it), all needed the help of carbon dioxide to reach the glass (plastic by the time we arrived). All that said, I enjoyed it, and the excellent pesto pizza at Terry’s pizzeria afterwards. The place was packed, but he found us a table near to the (artensal) wood pellet burner. I drank wine – very good.
My little project is progressing - slowly. I think the whole thing is coming together now. On Saturday I treated my wife to a ten euro ‘menu’ in the café attached to supermarket in our nearby big ‘city’ of Alcanyiz. Don’t scoff, for ten euros you get three courses and the ability to keep watch on your laden supermarket trolley to ensure that no one runs off with it. And the waiter speaks some English and he has style.
Afterwards we headed to the ‘huerto’ (pronounced ‘where-toe’) where we planted eight grape stocks and some other fruit trees on our recently recovered third terrace. If all goes well then one day we will be eating our own peaches, apples, pears, cherries, plums, apricots, loquats, olives and, of course, grapes. The land here is incredibly fertile, so the weeds grow exuberantly. But now we have a new battle plan. We’ve bought a lawn mower! It’s yellow and the very sight of it makes the locals roar with laughter and the weeds wither in fear of decapitation. Just think, all three of our terraces were covered in dense blackberry infestations a few years ago. No w Margaret mows the ‘lawns’.
My stone hut is growing. Just today, I set two huge cornerstones at the head of what will be the stairs. I bought these, with other stone, from a Rumanian man from the town which held the beer festival. He didn’t go, he was too tired. This is not surprising since on that day he carried, on his shoulder, many of my cornerstones up the ladder to the new concrete terrace: I can barely lift them. I asked him if he went to the gymnasium. He said, “Piedras son mi gymnasium” (stones are my gymnasium).
Some people wonder why I do not construct the stairs.The reason is simple: I cannot carry heavy stones or the concrete mixes that I need up there. The usual solution is a crane, but I have another. What will be the stairs is just a slope. I have now made a platform on wheels and can, just about, pull the large stones, or a wheel barrow full of wet concrete, up there using a pulley system. It is slow work, but it works. So, I am now building walls for the second storey; they will be sloping and at one end I will build a stone shed for water tanks and the solar battery arrangement. The rest will be a sun terrace from which we can survey our growing fruit trees whilst sipping a drop of Evil Wedding, or, more likely, San Miguel.