Sunday, March 04, 2007

Camp Granada

Just when we thought we couldn’t possibly take another grey winter's day, the weather got spectacularly better. As we drove to the lake at Hostens, the car thermometer rose to 27°C. This wasn't spring, it was full-blown summer barging in. Pasty-skinned city-dwellers were out in force at the lake with their picnics and pushchairs and dogs and ice-boxes and mountain bikes, all wearing last-year's bermuda shorts.

It wasn't quite Camp Granada but the feeling in the air was a little like the end of the song:
Wait a minute; it stopped hailing.Guys are swimming, guys are sailing.
Playing baseball, gee that's better.
Muddah, faddah, kindly disregard this letter!

And talking of Granada and very high temperatures [pause to allow you to admire that segue] I’ve just finished reading Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart, a book about living in the arid, mountainous region called the Alpujarras in southern Spain. A few months ago, I heard this this
podcast interview with the author and started reading his books about Spain — the others are A Parrot in the Pepper Tree and The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society — in the wrong order. They are very funny.

I am fascinated by books about people giving it all up to live in a shack half-way up a mountain in the middle of nowhere. I think mostly I'm captivated by them because when I read about the deprivations, the enforced asceticism, the long winters and dry summers, I can't help feeling that I've actually had the experience; lived the life. And the more I read about it, the more I've experienced it and the less urge I have to ever actually contemplate doing it.

I have become an expert armchair shunner of city life. Reading Kenneth White's
Lettres de Gourgounel, I vicariously spent a couple of years living alone in the Ardèche. Through Gerald Brenan's South from Granada, I paved the way for Stewart and his ilk, living the hermit’s life in an old farmhouse in Andalucia before the Second World War.

Inevitably, however, there comes a point in each book when I realise that rustication and the dry and dusty life are not for me. In Driving Over Lemons that point came with the following passage:
The host of creatures that had moved into the cane and brush ceiling of our bedroom began to breed and multiply, scuffling and skittering not six feet above our upturned and tremulously wakeful faces. As the heat of the night increased, the breeding and multiplying above us became even more frenzied , and soon, as the population soared out of control, we found ourselves spattered with larvae, maggots and other young deemed surplus to requirements. This was hardly conducive to a good night's rest.


Appy Linguist said...

But think of all the extra protein! If they'd slept with their mouths open, they could have stayed in bed a little longer each morning, as there'd be no need for breakfast.

Wendz said...

Never mind the dry and dusty bush....eeek...but when we lived in Argentina, our house had a cane and mud ceiling too...and there was a nasty little bug in it...I think it was called a vinchuca...which, if it bit you - could be fatal..and they liked to fall out the ceiling at night and bury themselves in your ears. Plus the scorpions and snakes slithering around meant we had to sleep with our slippers on the nighttable...I kid you not...but you do get used to it and although I didn't like seeing a mommy snake and all her little baby snakes sliding down the tiled passage, I didn't freak too much after a while..scorpions scared me though...they were a vicious bunch in those parts and we had way too many close encounters for my liking....and there was a specific spider the locals called a pollito - little chicken - which ws humgunous - they scared the shit out of me..the ran very fast and jumped - and they were bigger than a large man's hand and very very hairy. I loathed those things.

Wendz said...

Oh when Nathan was a baby his cot was swathed in netting to keep the baddies out. I used to panic about them after he was born.

Lesley said...

Wendz: They have scorpions in Andalucia too apparently. I don't think I know of any books about Argentina: perhaps there's a gap in the market for you.

deborah said...

Have plenty of comments for this post, Lesley! But first, for those interested in Wendz's vinchuca :

Triatoma infestans is one of the most prominent members of a group called Triatomine bugs (Triatominae, English: kissing bugs or cone-nosed bugs, Spanish: vinchucas, Portuguese: barbeiros), which in turn belong to the Heteroptera, or true bugs. There are more than 110 different Triatomines. The large majority of these live in the Americas.

All Triatomine bugs feed on blood, regardless of their age or sex. Some, including Triatoma infestans, live in and near human habitations where they hide in cracks, crevices, under the roof, and in similar locations. During the night, they emerge to search for humans or other warm-blooded animals. These domestic Triatomines are important vectors of Chagas disease. The flagellate Trypanosoma cruzi that causes Chagas disease is transmitted not through the bite, but with the faeces which is given off by the bug during, or shortly afterfeeding, and that is brought into contact with the eyes, the mouth, or wounds of the host.


Jordan said...

Didn't have your e-mail address, have to do this here. Tag, you're it.

Tee hee.

Apologies if you've done this little meme already (and/or if you don't really like memes, which I sort of don't, but sometimes they're fun and my friend passed this one on and well, I'm just being a good friend. Tee hee.

deborah said...

I listened to that podcast ages ago and found it really interesting, especially the descriptions of the raw deal for immigrant workers from North Africa.

I decided to go back to it again and was very irritated by some of the comments. Some people incapable of giving reasoned opinions and they missed the point!

Lesley said...

Yes Deborah, the comments are extremely silly: probably all from Brits who have retired to the Costa del Sol.