January and February. The eleventh and twelfth most popular months of the year, in no particular order.
It’s been a schlepp. The year has begun with some important changes for us, but what a schlepp. Up to our necks in boxes, budgeting and assorted banalities. Also, bunny replacements. We’re just getting over it now – lifting our heads and looking towards the horizon again, the year ahead.
Mentalities opening out like spring blossoms.
The cold hasn’t helped. Siberians – why can’t they keep their weather to themselves? We’ve been cold down here at the southernmost point of mainland Europe for weeks. Process that for a minute. Southernmost point. Cold.
Of course when I explain to our cousins in the north that we’re getting daytime highs of 13, 14 and 15 degrees the sympathy is limited. Those are just the highs though – our lows have been low and the houses down here are built to refridgerate, so when it’s 6 degrees outside, it’s 5 degrees in the living room.
For fahrenheit people, simply take the celsius figure and dip it in hot water, leave to dry naturally at room temperature for two hours and then soak again overnight, giving you a fahrenheit value. Alternatively, why not join us in the modern world and learn celsius? Seriously, it’s a lot of fun over here! If you think celsius is good you should get a load of centimetres!
I had breakfast on the patio this morning, in my dressing gown surrounded by my snapdragon and hybrid pots. I don’t even know what a snapdragon is but the packet was colourful so I’ve planted some. We have the first tiny little shoots, along with those of thyme and mint. It’s a regular paradise in the making.
On a window sill upstairs I’m germinating some tomatoes, peppers, rosemary and lavender. Another farm. It can’t go worse than the last one. I have visions of myself on the patio come September, lost amidst the kaleidoscopic blooms, reeking of herbs and my greedy chin dripping with remnants of tomato and pepper. Let’s see.
For the plants, as for us, the year’s first spurt of growth and progress has been slow. The usual post-holiday hibernation has been deepened by the icy weather system hanging over all of Europe. There are death tolls in some places. It induces a curling up. I’ve been getting out of bed that little bit later, skipping the morning runs, drinking more wine in the evenings.
Today it’s Sunday and we go down to our regular little bar in our favourite little square. To chase the low winter sun, Juan has moved his tables across the cobbled quadrangle; they are outside another bar in fact, which luckily is closed. It’s a windless day so the sheltered, sunlit plazuela is genuinely warm. We eat fried fish and it feels like the year’s best afternoon so far. K has forgotten her sunglasses and needs to borrow mine.
She is thoughtful and trying to get a grasp on the future today.
Talk about it, picture it. Bring it into focus.
I advise her to have a bath.
Yip, she’s lucky to have me.
I do want to cheer her up but I am bad at it. I want us to feel fortunate and blessed. We are.
We go down to the water and out across the sand. It’s glaring bright and warm and windless. Now that we’ve moved this is the way home. We take off our shoes and pad along in the cool water. There are kitesurfers out and some swimmers. A few children on the sand, families.
It all comes back to me. I’ve been listless lately, feeling a little drab. Feeling that the world was a little listless and drab. But of course it isn’t. A few weeks of cold and already I couldn’t quite remember the warm. Until now. We take a turn and step off the sand and onto the street, but I don’t want to put my shoes back on just yet so I walk without them.
Tarifa has rearranged itself on the axis of our move; we walk different ways and notice different things now. The more modern, less charming part of town has become more charming, detailed and coloured in. For the time being, every time I need to walk somewhere, or return home, it’s a pleasure.
It is activating – the warmer day, talk of the future, the ocean, the move. Sleepy time is over and synapses are beginning to fire again – the same stretching and opening out. At home I sit on the patio and type. The neighborhood is very quiet. I can hear a nearby choir rehearsing their carnaval tunes.
K is inside, not quite cheered up. Additionally, the felid has scratched her nose, so she is sulking. She will skype her parents and then go up. It’ll be ok. We’re thawing out now. I’ve promised her that if she can find her belly-dancing costume I’ll put it on and perform an erotic dance for her as she bathes.
The lucky girl.
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