Wednesday 14 March 2012

Almond Blossom

I am now in Spain. The overloaded trailer and the van made it, though there were a few problems: one of the ratchet belts holding down the motorbike broke and the cover disintegrated as the wind and rain in England, then the wind alone in Spain.

We spent the first night in a town called Jaca (pronounced Haca) and the second in Solsona. Both towns are in the foothills of the Pyrenees and both are very cold at night for the poor folks sleeping in unheated motor caravans.

Jaca was pleasant. Its older parts have quite narrow streets and smart building with good shops (I’m told). The first bar we visited was the Old Station. Big and busy it was noisy, had a bar lined with people drinking and chatting and the barmaid gave me free crisps with my fizzy beer. It felt good to be back in our adopted second country. In the morning, out running in the cold sunshine and shorts, I saw the groups of skiers on their way to the pistes swaddled in their puffy anoraks. They mostly looked miserable and askance.

Solsona is not so attractive but, like Jaca, is framed in the distance by the towering Pyrenees so all is forgiven. Besides, we were there to visit relatives especially our middle grandson who talks to us constantly in Spanish which is hard work, but he is a nice lad. That night we took him and the rest of our complex family (don’t ask) to a restaurant of his choice. It was good and we were in our cold bed by midnight. In the morning when we called to say goodbye he was still asleep. He had been out again with friends until three in the morning. Oh to be seventeen.

The last leg of our journey took us through the lakeland of arid Aragon - miles of piercingly green water formed mostly by dams. We stopped at one of the lakes for lunch and there I met a man fishing: he had a copy of the Richard Dawkins’ Blind Watchmaker beside him and came from Pershore. In England we are near neighbours. Interesting to talk to he was, like me, dithering over the next generation of motorcars: hydrogen, electric, etc.

And then we were at last in our own region: the Mataranya. We had seen blossom along the way, but nothing beats the almond blossom of the Mataranya. It seems to float above the dry fields in clouds of pink and white. Hundreds of trees meet the eye, offset a little by the milky green of the interspersed olive trees. The economy is shot, fifty percent of the young are unemployed, the Rumanians are still here, but it looks like being a bumper year for almonds.

It was good to be back. I drove straight to the huerto and uncoupled the trailer. We then stared wistfully at our own almond tree. We only have one and we thought that it was dying. But there it was in full blossom. Lovely.

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