In Plenary, Presentation on March 30, 2011 at 9:16 am

The Spanish use the same word for time that they do for weather. It seemed odd to me at first but is making more and more sense. You only have to watch cloud shadow play across a hillside or observe the changes in people as they live through the different weathers thrown at them by a passing year to understand the word. I look it up and in fact ten possible meanings are listed: 


1. Time

Time has changed. Apart from my three hours in the afternoons with the kids – Monday through Thursday – I manage my own these days. I am no longer a time-labourer; I’m the farmer. There’s only so much that can be harvested and I need it for teaching, for getting shots, for writing. I need it for K, for our home, for fun. To think, to try new things, to plan, to sleep. It’s hard work and I’m not good at it. Yet.


2. Weather

Tarifa is all about the weather. People come here for wind. It is the windiest place in Europe although we haven’t experienced the shock we were warned about – Ireland would give it a run for its money. Our time here has been clearly demarcated by changes in weather. The hot winds and hot, hot nights before K got here; the cooling Autumn with its fresh mornings and thinning population, its closing bars and boutiques; the rainy winter with its ridiculous humidity and the battles with damp and mould; and now the brightened Spring, the warming year with its multicoloured blooms and barbecues.


3. Quarter

My income is roughly a quarter of what it was. It grates at times to have to be so watchful with every penny but my taste for cheap wine has helped. Food too, in this country, is best when cheap and fresh. I am also about a quarter as stressed as I was, so the deal is a fair one.


4.  Tense

Ok, a little license here. The dictionary means tense as in present perfect, future simple and so on but I can’t do anything with that so I’m using tension. And we’ve certainly had a lot of that. Previous dispatches may have given the impression that life here is one endless carnaval but…well ok, recently it has been. Before that, however, anxiety levels were well up. They still are. There is a price to pay for all of this. Prices. People, things to miss and certainties, familiarities to lament. We’re still totting up the bill.


5. Term

The Spanish for term is trimestre and for the first time since I was a student – and that is a long time – my year is divided into three of them. I am learning that to approach the end of a term is to approach exhaustion, to crawl over sand like a desert rat towards some wavering mirage that disappears when you get there only to become…another term. Children are hard work, it turns out. Miners have it easy…


6. Part

At no point did we hold up a “life in the sun” as a target for ourselves. The trappings of an expat life in the south of Spain are, if anything, repellent to us. There are far too many orange people down here who came for the sun years ago and still don’t speak Spanish. They crave English breakfasts or whatever the German equivalent is and drink their beer by the pint or whatever the German equivalent is. That’s not us. We knew before we made the move that it was a step, nothing more. A part of what we’re trying to achieve.


7. Movement

An obvious one – it’s all movement at the moment, all “up in the air”. This is the source of so much of the tension and tiredness but also of the exhilaration. Life couldn’t always be like this, surely? Some of this airborne dust will have to settle. I wonder how, and where.


8. Tour

Tricky. I don’t like the connotations here. The word makes me think of “guided” tours and being told what to do and when to do it in what is meant to be your time off. Then there’s the Grand Tour of years gone by when young British aristos would set off with trunk and manservant and tour the Florences and Romes and Cairos, returning with knowledge and taste and a lot of stuff that should probably still be in those places. Both K and I have lived now in multiple countries and neither of us could tell you for sure whether our tour is over or not.


9. Cyclone

Nope, nothing.


10. Period

I have a powerful sense that we are creating a period in our lives. One of those times that will be looked back upon. The time that we….the days when it….remember when? A little suspicious of the impulse to create memories; I prefer to fully engage, to live without the mediation of an imagined future self. On the other hand, memories will be created whether I like it or not. Hope you enjoy them, future self.

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  1. Nice parsing of Time and weather and tension. Loved this.

  2. Beautiful econony of expression as ever. As for being Farmer Time, I’m in the same, rickety boat and this reminds me of a line from one of my fave Scottish bands, the Trashcan Sinatras. In their song the Genius I Was I find myself relating to the line:
    ‘In the field, the fool that I am, I was ploughed, help me open up. You want me to milk my time but I just graaazzze..’
    But I won’t keep you further, I know yer itching to get off for a pint of the cold, black stuff and a full Irish. 😉

  3. I really love the “period” part. For some reason, I can totally relate and having periods flash before my eyes.

  4. I love this post. It’s probably my favorite from you because it reveals to me how much we have in common. You are here because you want to live a life in Spain, be a part of the culture, and share many ways with a number of words that where you are means something to you. Awesome post Robin!

  5. Thanks very much for that, Jeremy 🙂

  6. Great post! We also live in an area full of English-breakfast-craving, beer-drinking orange people who speak no Turkish and have no desire to learn. But like you, we’re here with our own agenda – I just wish other Turks we speak to elsewhere in Turkey wouldn’t give us that knowing look when we tell them where we live! 🙂

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