This has nothing to do with the “real” Brave New World – I did love Huxley’s classic novel, but our new world is more like a return to basics.
We got here just in time to harvest the almonds on our land. Only we had to learn how to do that. When I say “we”, I mean Axel… and boy, is he learning! On the first day, he was still climbing trees and hand-picking almonds that looked good to him – by now, he’s harvesting them by the kilo. He promised to write something about the whole process of harvesting & his visit to the Cooperativa to sell them, later…
We’re now living at roughly a mile (that is about 1600m) from our finca, in a tiny house in the little village of Lledo. We’re one of the last houses in the village; it’s very quiet here, we don’t see many people, especially on week days. When we’re out walking the dogs or making our daily visit to Jose Ramon the shopkeeper, we might meet a few of the villagers: mostly old people going about their daily routine. But on Friday night, everything changes: that’s when the people from Barcelona come in. Some of them still have family (parents / grandparents) living here and come to spend the weekend with them – others inherited a small piece of land around here, and spend their weekends on a tractor or wielding a strimmer. So from Friday night to Sunday night, the village is full of people, children playing, and in the distance, you hear gun shots – many of those Barcelonese seem to like hunting as well…
Working from home
The first week was a bit of a test for me – I’m a control freak, and around here sometimes you just have to let go. I work from home and through the internet, so on our first day here, we set out to get some wifi at our house. Everybody told us it was possible and no problem and would be very quick, and lo and behold: on our second day, Saturday, we found the right place, got a subscription for WIFI (and a mobile phone), and were told a mechanic would come to our house on Monday. Of course, we heard nothing on Monday. On Tuesday, I sent them an e-mail; on Wednesday, we got a call saying that somebody would come around on Thursday. That’s when I started to lose faith… By then, I had been going to a bar in Arens or Valderrobres every morning to get some work done – but it’s one thing to work from a bar for a few hours from time to time, and something else entirely to realise you should be spending entire working days in a bar where the internet is not so great anyway, the privacy nihil, and the waiter sighing every time you order another tea. To make things worse, I had gone through my entire amount of “international data” included in my (Dutch) mobile subscription, and was now paying more than I should every time I connected to the internet to check e-mails. So when the mechanic showed up on Friday afternoon and fixed us up in only an hour or 2 (the connection had to come from a bit further down the village), I could just kiss him. Strange how dependent I’ve become on something that didn’t even exist when I was little (internet)!
As you probably know by now, we have a puppy (a Great Swiss puppy, so he’s very big already). Jabba enjoys chewing on cords (already cost us 2 iPhone-cables and 2 MacBook-chargers), barking at colourful things, and jumping in the fields while playing with Jinx. Unfortunately, that last thing sounds less dangerous than it actually is; one evening (we had been here for exactly 6 days) he was suddenly really in pain, and couldn’t open his eyes. Wouldn’t let us look at them either. We phoned the vet in Valderrobres, who was about to close and didn’t feel like waiting up for some panicking foreigners (I must admit, my Spanish isn’t very good yet anyway) – thankfully there is a big animal hospital in Tortosa (only 45 minutes drive) who were happy to wait for us. Turned out he had an ear (like an ear from cereal) in his eye, and since those nasty things are bearded, it wounded his eye from the inside. I’m sparing you the details now. Vet’s diagnosis: the grass on your land is too high. Suggested treatment: cut your grass. O, and eye drops for the dog as well.
Feria de la Almendra & Aguardiente Festival
The best times around here, is when there’s a party somewhere. Which is quite often the case; there were a few on our first weekend here. The “Feria de la Almendra” in neighbouring village Arens de Lledo, and the “Aguardiente Festival” in Prat the Compte (which is across the border, in Catalunya, but we’re very close to the border anyway). We went to Arens first – it was lovely to see some people again, plus there were several stalls with home-made food (fried leaves with honey, churros, mushrooms, weird beverages with and without nuts), other stalls with local products, and of course lots of almonds and information about them. Unfortunately by the time we got to Prat, it was a good hour before closing time and it had just started raining – so we saw many stalls breaking up and people leaving… not that it was really our intention to buy a distillation still this year, but still. We then decided to have some aguardiente in one of the hundreds of garages-turned-into-bars-for-the-occasion, only to discover we spent all of our money in Arens… Well, we’ll go again next year.
Apart from the mayor, the most well-known man around here seems to be Jose Ramon. He lives in Arens where he is known as the local baker; every day around 11 though, he packs his things and drives to our village of Lledo where he opens the local shop. It’s a shop like no other, as it has literally everything: bread, meat and other fresh food, beverages (from 5L water bottles to all kinds of liquors and spirits), frozen and canned food, toys, office supplies, tools, you name it. And if he doesn’t have what you’re looking for, he’ll make sure he has it next time you come in! His shop is open every day between around 12 and 2 – afterwards he drives around the campo to do home deliveries.
So when are they starting to build?
This is the question we hear the most, nowadays… So now you’ve moved to Spain to see how they will build the house, when are they starting to build it, really? To be honest, we don’t know exactly – last thing we heard was “end of October”, but then we made some alterations to a part of it, so now all we know is that the architect is working very hard at implementing those changes and we’re expecting to get the new plans on Tuesday… To be continued!