When it rains, fish will appear, part 9a

Door San Daniel gepubliceerd in Verhalen en Poëzie

                                  

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  The father:  

"San loved, order and regularity. That was what his previous life had taught him, a life that almost drove him out of his mind and burned him up, draining his energy daily, until he realized one day that he was waisting his life in an artificial society and sold everything and had moved to Andalusia. He was standing in his bodega and looked with pleasure at the wine barrels that were neatly arranged. Each barrel had a capacity of 250 liters, not that you could fill them to the edge, you had to keep room for the fermentation process, if that started. He had known so little about wine when he had come to Andalucia. He had thought French wines were good and that red wine came from red grapes and white wine from white grapes. Now he knew better. Each French wine was manipulated and wines in the North of Europe were started with a yeast starter. This was not necessary in the South of Spain. The grapes formed so many sugars by the sun that once pressed and in the barrel, the fermentation started within a few hours by itself.

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The summer determined per year, depending on the sun hours of that year, the sugar content per grape, so the strength of the wine and the color differed per year. No two wine years were the same. He had to chuckle subconsciously, there were no French wines. The fungal disease in the beginning of the century had wiped out all French grapes, a well-kept secret. The Pyrenees had protected the Spanish vines. The fungus had remained on the French side of the mountain ranges. All grape sticks of name; The Bordeaux, the Merlot, the Rousillion, the Blanquettes de Limoux, the Champagnes, the Mosaels, the Beaujolais, had been reintroduced from the United States and were brougt to color and taste, because the customer expected a certain color and taste. As a result, sulphite was added again and after some glasses it caused a crackling headache that you did not get with the ecological wines. The great Spanish wines now followed the French example and it was only in the farmers' region that you came across' honest ' not manipulated wine.

The French emigrants who had moved to America had planted some grape cuttings in California and made the Southern state into large wine-producing valleys. The mother grapes had gone lost in France and French winemakers, took cuttings from the American vines in California during pruning time and had them replanted in the country of origin and so slowly but surely, the wine fields that had been burnt down and plowed, were repopulated with their American relatives.

It was an easy way of propagating if you knew which cuttings to take. It had taken San 'only' a year  to recognize which cuttings of the mother grape, were suitable for cuttings and propagation. He had begun the retoration of the farm with its centuries-old walls. That had not been costly but time-consuming. He had learned that people always built with materials that were available. His neighbor was curious to come and see who the new neighbors were on the second day, he had brought a bottle of his own wine and looked, shaking his head, at the mess that had been abandoned for 15 years. There had been only one room that could be made animal-proof and from there the rebuilding began. Every room that became habitable was an incredible luxurious extension of the available space. There had been no toilet, nor a shower or running water or electricity at that time.

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The former occupants had washed their clothes in an overflow of the well and themselves as well. The time had frozen over in Andalucia. 'Look', said the neighbor who had worked during the Franco time in Germany for a few years as a guest laborer, 'stones get you from the river', his German was bad and limited to what his boss had roared at him when the weekend arrived at the end of a long working week Düsseldorf.  'Nicht zoviel zaupfen, Antonio, du ja du kleine'. Don't get pissed, Antonio, you little guy.

"It were years of suffering," he told me, "sleeping in a boarding house and being exhausted and shouted at by German nitwits, who looked down on the Spanish workers. 'The worst of all was how he had missed Andalucia and the family and the village. But he had saved his money and after a few years he had returned and he could buy the farm he was working on now and after a while he bought a large second-hand tractor and then he could shape the land to his liking.

He thought it was very interesting that there were neighbors again and knew a lot of loose German words and with hands and feet we came a long way. The walls I learned, were just double walls of stacked stones with clay from the river between them, which after an hour became rock hard by the sun. Much labor but zero costs. You walked over your land and looked for branches under the olive trees that were thick and sawed them off. You tried to choose leg thick branches that were not too crooked and the width of your room was determined by the length of those branches. With about a meter in between you lifted it to the spot, which sounds easier than it is, first on one side on the wall at an angle and then on the other side lifting it and placing it and sliding it to where you wanted it.

Two empty diesel barrels of the tractor fuel, with a beam over it became a scaffold and that's how we knocked it off. At the river, along the banks you cut bamboo at lengths of 2 to 3 meters and bundled it with hemp rope, my neighbor braided baskets, hats and so on and also his own rope. The bundles were placed across the olive 'beams' and the roof was almost finished, as if you were making a raft. The in between cracks were smeared closed again, as was previously the case on ship decks and the roof tiles could be put on top. Even those, I did not have to buy, there were many of them, just for the taking, of stables from the past glory time and in collapsed outbuildings.

A price tag is attached to everything in life and my price tag was that as a good neighbor, I helped my neighbor with his work. For example, our Cortijo, the homestead, was slowly being made habitable again and I helped the neighbor through the year in my 'free time' with all the work he could not do alone. He was already well advanced in age but still worked on the  land and with his 80 years he jumped on the tractor as if it were nothing.

In his 'Germany days' folk had probably explained things to him by shouting and roaring a lot at him, assuming something like that promoted understanding. He taught me Spanish and raised his voice when I did not understand something and repeated it very loudly. He was visibly pleased that the shoe was now on the other foot and that he was in a position to teach me.

I helped him slaughter the pigs, and skin and bone them, he taught me how to chop the carved hams, 1 kilo of salt per kilo of weight and the hams stayed good for a year and how to dry them in the wind. He pressed the hams by placing planks on them and then stacking stones on them, the moisture then ran out of the hams and the salt drew in. and I helped with the grape harvest and the pressing of the wine to be done in one go and so we hung with a number of strong neighbors at the lever of the press for sometimes as long as 24 hours, taking turns.

We filled the barrels and he walked with me across the land and taught me the words for the fruit trees and when I had to sow crops and how. He was a walking source of knowledge, He walked over the land and then just stopped and kicked his foot in the ground and kicked a root free, He pulled a piece off, bit it in half and offered me a piece to. It was licorice like. And I learned and learned and made up for all the lost years of a hurried society, catching up to be real human again and my body changed and became taut and strong and if I was thirsty I picked a fruit or kicked in the ground to find a root and I became a little, a little bit like my neighbor.

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I saw how he pruned and I saw which cuttings he took from the mother grape, and I realized that I also had mother grapes along the side of an old field and I started planting. '

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"San left the bodega and reached the old olives, close to the back door of the Cortijo. Centenarios he knew with one look, typo Andaluz antiguo. All at least a hundred years old and the original imported species, which were planted in Spain by the Arabs when they occupied Spain and dominated it for 700 years. Like the fig tree and the almond tree and curiously enough the vine, all reminders of a strongly dominant Arab culture. Right to the name of the valley, el faz, 'the face' It was so called by the Moors, because it looked out on the village in the distance that was slightly raised.

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Tipo Andaluz antiguo, the olive variety that could survive 7 years of water scarcity, albeit without producing fruit, to rejuvenate and blossom after the first rainstorm. Now he knew that olives also absorb moisture through their leaves and that the morning dew is sufficient to keep them alive. He had learned a great deal over the last few years; all neighboring farmers told him only things worth knowing, which were normal for them, but which had been extraordinary for a city boy. He had thought that there were different kinds of olives, black and green olives, now he knew better, black olives were olives that were longer on the tree and the sun concentrated the olives and their taste and made their outside fade, first to purple and a bit later to git shiny black.

He had a special neighbor who lived at the bottom of the path leading to the farmers' settlements. Antionio Fuerte, the strong one. He was wealthy and collected trees, he called his farm, 'the oasis'. He had neither child nor crow and was not interested in women, he collected trees. "What do you mean," he collects trees? "I had asked my old teacher, who was called Antonio palomo, because of his white hair. he became Anonio the dove. "We'll stop by with a bottle of wine today," the dove had answered.
 
Our patron saint of the village was San Antonio and everyone was named first or second name after that saint. My neighbor, for example, had a son named Antonio and a wife called Antonia and a grandson named Antonito. Then you would need nicknames. I now knew that everything that ended in ito was a affectionate diminutive. I had come a long way and from afar.

It had been a special meeting, with bread and wine and a piece of ham in the paradise like surrounding gardens of Antonio the strong one. The strong one did not have many visitors, he was rather on his own and immediately set an outdoor table on our arrival and put some tapas on it and took three glasses and a bottle of wine and explained that it was not fun to be the strongest in a village where the men always wanted to see if you really were that strong. "I will not be baited anymore when people challenge me," he had explained. "I've had those years. I am now busy with real business, trees'. The dove had looked at me meaningfully. "Oh, really," I had asked trying to sound surprised. "Have you come across something special lately," the dove had replenished. "I found 2 millionarios," replied the strong one. "Millennials," I asked with awe, how do you know that?

 

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'I saw them standing on a piece of land and I immediately bought that,' the strong man replied. 'I went looking for Ramon with the digger and had them excavated and replanted here'. I let that sink in. 'Good God Fuerte', I said, 'you have bought land to dig up two trees?' 'Yes', he answered simply, 'after that I sold that land again.' "He now had sparkling eyes," come and have a look, and he was eager to show his new treasures. A bit further away from the house the ground was turned over and there were a few meters away, two gnarled, erratic shapes with a circumference of a few meters. One was only a sawed-through trunk.

"This one died," Antonio said sadly, it was the smaller of the two. There are people who have come to see it from the University of Murcia and they have counted year rings and they took a piece to Murcia. It was 1500 plus years old. 'This one made it,' he continued with a smile from ear to ear and he pointed to a second wooden form. I saw what I thought was a huge dead piece of wood. "Just have a look," said Antonio, and he walked around the tree and pointed at a tiny green dot. "This is from the year of our Lord, Jesu Christo" and he crossed himself. I believed him right away, if the smaller tree had been 1500 years old, then I figured that the second would be an easy 2000 years. "Thank you," I said simply, "that you showed me this," and I realized that he had just shown me his greatest treasures.

"De nada," my trees loving friendly neighbor replied, "gladly done," "and you'll come by whenever you want, to see them." "Tell him about the palm trees," said Antonio the dove, "they are coming next week," and he took another sip of wine. "Yes, they are," the strong man agreed, "and he looked shy. "I gave myself a pre-Christmas present."

Antonio the dove laughed, 'do you know how many trees are coming next week and from where?' I shook my head, how could I know that? '60 full grown palm trees, 'the dove' informed me enthusiastically,' from Egypt. ' I could not believe my ears, "Holy virgin," I stammered, "Fuerte, are you having palm trees come all the way from Egypt." 'Yes,' he murmured modestly, 'that is true, I wanted to enlarge the oasis.'

After a few more glasses of wine and a hunk of bread, it was time to go, the sun was high enough in the sky to work on the land. We shook hands and a moment later I walked towards my fields and I realized that Andalucia was slowly but surely sinking into  my heart. "

San Daniel 2019

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05/01/2019 06:38

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