I had wondered why such generous concrete boundaries had been afforded the little more-or-less-dry river bed that winds along in front of the English school.
Now I know.
I’m standing beneath the nearby bridge in my socks and underwear. It’s raining, hard and heavy; water gushes all around me – the whole world it seems is a waterfall today. I’ve found a sheltered and slightly raised patch of pathway and make damp footprints on it with my socks. The artificial riverbank is being tested and has burst in some places.
Before anyone calls social services, I had to duck in under here to get out of my sodden jeans and to put on a dry pair of trousers. Why? Because my “trusty” bar, next door to the school hasn’t bothered opening. Nor has the cafeteria round the corner. It is raining after all. Spain is very much like Wimbledon in that respect; rain stops play.
So here I am, a half-dressed troll under a bridge. Near a school.
It seemed like the right moment to put pen to paper. When it rains in Spain it does so the same way people talk here – a lot, and loudly. Also I can confirm from first hand experience that it does not, in fact, fall mainly on the plain. On the contrary, most of it seems to be falling on me.
It was already damp, both inside and out, but the downpour this week has ensured that everything in the house feels dank to the touch. I worry for my books. My salt rock candle-holders (from the Sahara) appear to be melting. There is a musty aroma around the apartment and for once it isn’t my socks.
We put up with it. Quite happily in fact. We burn oils to keep the place smelling nice and the electric radiator is on almost all of the time. The world is damp, the world is water, but we are cosy and we have a new reason to look forward to the blazing summer that will bake the moisture out of everything for another year.
Grieving as we are for our little lagomorph, and struggling as we do from time to time with all the little differences here – the damp, the noise, the (deliberately?) baffling opening hours, the language mountain we have yet to summit – we are beginning, I think, to settle. We feel tired after a frenetic couple of months but we no longer feel crazed, stressed, scared.
Here we are…we have endured our own deluge – the logistics, the worry, the unforeseen, the expense, the lagomorph – and our banks have held…we are faced with a new and unambiguous reality; that we have “done it”.
We are proud and tired and sad and happy, and we must allow ourselves that – to be a little mixed up. K, though, has gotten to grips with her new job very quickly and I am approaching the end of my first term of teaching without having had a breakdown. I am writing articles again and we talk continuously about where we might be a year from now and what we might be up to.
We will spend the Christmassiest of Christmases in Christmassy Bavaria, with K’s family. Hopefully it will all be water there too, but of the white, frozen variety, for added Christmasiness. And then we will face a year unlike any that either of us has known.
At some point during that year we will probably be dealing with water shortages as the essential stuff of life evaporates in the Iberian heat, repeating the cycle of scarcity and abundance. The inevitability seems unbelievable just now.
I can hear people arriving at the school above the roar of the current as it echoes and amplifies off the bridge’s concrete underside. This is not a dream or a fairytale or an extended holiday. We are here. It’s time to go to work.
I pull on my dry trousers and make a dash for it.