Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Billy goat gruff!

On Monday we were sitting outside with the animals, just soaking up some autumnal sunshine, when the dogs suddenly jumped up and ran to the fence, barking their heads off. When we finally quietened them down we could hear what their more acute hearing had picked up much earlier than us, the dull jangle of animal bells. Around here this usually means goats, and sure enough, a local goatherd had brought his flock (I suppose I mean herd!) to the green zone at the back of our house. It is pretty rough under-foot, but they were clambering everywhere, some quite close up to our fence, and were duly stripping all the trees there. We can't fathom the rights and wrongs of it. The land is public but the trees are privately owned, but the herdsman had no qualms about letting his animals eat them! There are lots of goats here but the meat doesn't appear in the main supermarkets etc, so we presume they are mainly kept for their milk, cheese-maiking etc, though I am sure their meat is eaten by the farming community. They are mostly very well cared for, and come in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes. The goatherd gave us a friendly wave and kept his dog a safe distance from ours, so we stood and watched them for a while. They seemed to favour pomegranate trees! There were some lovely young kids skipping about among the adults, and then this big 'Billy goat gruff' came and stood below us, gazing up with impassive eyes while I took his photo. With his long beard and those lovely curly horns, he's a handsome fellow isn't he?
This isn't Spanish news but I thought I'd share the picture with you. I bet you all remember 'Five boys' chocolate bars. They were a real treat for us weren't they? Well here are my 'Five boys'. They were actually all in the same place at the same time on Sunday, and they managed to get a photograph of it for me to prove it. They had actually all arranged to go to a rock concert together in the evening, and then they decided to go in the morning and all attend the service at Jim's church. A long-standing friend of Jim's also went with them, and together with Jo and the family, they went out to lunch together and then on to their concert. It's the first time they have all been together since my 60th birthday a couple of years ago, and it sounds as though they had a really good time. So here they are outside Jim's church in Pendeford.
When we walk the dogs each morning, we watch with interest, the start of work on the track for the new AVE (Alto Velocidad Española) or High Speed Spanish train to you and me. It will cross the land where we walk and for the past few weeks they have been fencing off the land and bringing in the heavy machines that will clear it. They have already flattened out a wide swathe and are now removing a small hill! The digger fills up lorries which travel the new track and deposit the earth and rocks at the other end. We are wondering if this is ready to make the embankment. They will have to tunnel under the main road or build over it, so there will be lots of shoring up to do. There are three lorries doing this circuit run and they are filled in just a few minutes, so with them driving up and down all the time, the new track is getting very compounded and firm. And each morning a tanker also drives up and down it, spraying water out, we assume to lay the dust and help with the settling of it. It will be interesting to watch the site develop, but I'm glad I don't live in the house you can see behind the diggers. That's a bit too close for comfort, and not quite the tranquil retreat the owners thought they were buying!
We had a horrid day on Sunday with rain and very strong winds, but we are back to sunshine again now. When we had lunch on the porch yesterday, it was 22º, and our thermometer is in the shade. But as soon as the sun goes down, it does get cold. We actually wrapped up in our blankets to watch television in the evening. It's the Spanish way to deal with draughts, and saves lighting fires. The only trouble is, that whenever I snuggle up like that, I fall asleep, and miss the programme I sat down to watch! The arrival of some late afternoon clouds meant that we had a beautiful sunset yesterday, so I took a photo of it. I haven't done many 'skies' for a while, so I thought it might be time to pop one in here.
At last I can report some real progress with our road. They were laying concrete just a block or two up from us today, and when I talked to one of the workmen, he told me they will do our bit in the morning. As it is laid from wall-to wall across the street, we will be prisoners in our house tomorrow, until it has set a bit. They will put walking planks down in the afternoon. I still find it a very strange way to work. You'd think they'd do all down one side first, and then the other, but as I've said before, this is Spain, and they don't do anything the way we might expect them to. Anyway it will be worth it to have all that dust covered up. It's a long street and it will take them ages to cover it all with little paving bricks, but at least we'll have a hard surface to walk on while they are doing it.

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