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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Driving over Oranges

Oranges everywhere, but don't drive over them.

My family and I came to Spain in 1999, the same year that Chris Stewart published his book, "Driving over Lemons." This became required reading, but we read the book before actually arriving in Spain, and it made me feel like changing my mind. It is a wonderful story of a young English family who move to Spain and choose to live in the mountains and go back to nature. The Spanish, who have had quite enough of nature, are only too eager to sell their little plot to these crazy foreigners.

Reading the story from outside the country was a little terrifying, but I was assured it was not all like what was described in the book. When we arrived we looked for a home that was near to a town and a train and civilization, because the hardships suffered by the intrepid Stewart family was something we wanted to avoid at all costs.

One of the wonderful things the author describes was buying the house from Pepe, but Pepe doesn't actually leave. He just moves into the shed with his beasts, the name he gives to his dogs.

The book gets its name from the fact that driving in the dirt road to and from the house, which has no electricity nor indoor plumbing, lemons are everywhere, and trying to drive around them is impossible.

It is not in the DNA of an Englishman to disrespect food to the extent of allowing lemons and oranges to fall from the tree, and rot, and then to drive over them, and that brings us to where I am today.

Spain to day, is a country of great contrasts. On the upper end some Spanish have turned their orange, lemons, and olive groves into massive housing estates, and in the process they have reaped so much riches that they never even dreamed it was possible. The country has fabulous ribbons of road, great mansions and skyscrapers, wonderful public parks and buildings and theme parks to rival the most progressive nations. It also has homes in the interior without basic services, and people who live strictly from the land, and, of course everything in between.

We moved from our comfortable suburban house to the mountains amid a forest of orange trees. At the base of the mountain is the village of Pedralba, with the river Turia, an ancient town where everyone knows everyone else, and their business. Our home is well served by amenities, but we do have neighbours from hell, as well as those who are angels.

We also have a friend who's name is Pepe, and his wife Amparo. They adopted us when we first arrived, and Pepe has taught me how to be a Spainard. It has been thirteen years since we came here. Our Spanish experience has been entirely satisfactory, however, there have been two wars that have impacted upon the United States that have weakened the U.S. Dollar, and that has badly affected us as I earn my pension in that currency. Now, the Euro itself is on very shaky ground and we may all be about to go down the drain together, but as I write this, it is the 29th of January and the sun is shining brilliantly as though it were a Summer's day. Life is good!

For the past couple of months we have been living through harvest time of the oranges, a magical time of year. As far as the eye can see there are green trees with what seems like golden orbs hanging from branches simply waiting to be picked. I find it very difficult to come to grips with the fact that so many oranges simply fall to the ground and rot. It is such a shame that the hungry and starving cannot have access to so much wastage. During this past week I experienced my own eye watering moment of wastage when driving down the estate road I encountered a spillage of oranges from the farmer's truck. He was busily picking them up, but he ordered me to simply drive on, to drive over the oranges that were in my path.

I should have stopped and helped, but unfortunately I was in a hurry, so, with eyes closed I did as I was commanded. Now, I have my very own Driving over Oranges story to tell. I feel terrible!

Spain is a wonderful country with equally wonderful Spanish people. I came here because a Spanaird discovered my country, Bermuda, but the Spanish Crown decided it had no interest in such a small island and they walked away from it. I always wondered how different my life might have been had I grown up Spanish. Now I know!

I would have been very happy!

Copyright (c) 2012  Eugene Carmichael