We’ve been back home in Spain for a full month now, leaving Bahrain and the Arab Spring behind for ever. Memories of being under house arrest, the distant gun-shots, the helicopters and the protests are fading.
Our Spanish neighbours gave us a lovely welcome and their eyes grew large when we told them about our year away. Very few have ever been out of Spain, and our tales of teaching Arab children and the uprising astonished them. But it was the day-to-day stuff that really fascinated them.
“Madre mia!” Paco said as he sliced the serrano ham.
“No ham or pork at all? For a whole year?”
“And you had to cover yourselves up in that heat?” asked Carmen, gaping.
Coming back to our mountain village was like pulling on a favourite pair of old slippers. We threw ourselves into cleaning the house and evicting the spiders and lizards that had taken up residence while we were away. It didn’t take long, and we were soon comfortable again.Only one of our elderly chickens survived, so in the second week, we got six more to keep her company. Chickens are not known for their high IQ, but this new lot seem particularly dense. Roosting is instinct, right? But even with old Susio there to teach them, they cannot get the hang of roosting.
Every night they sleep in an untidy heap on the ground, instead of climbing the ramp to the roosting pole. Joe tried picking them up and lifting them onto the perch for the night, but the chickens mostly fell off, and the next night slept in their huddle on the ground again. We’ll try once more when the weather worsens and it becomes important for them to sleep inside, off the ground. They may not have grasped the roosting concept, but at least they have begun to lay eggs. No more shop-bought eggs for us!
We used to feed two wild village cats, sisters that were born in our chicken-coop. To our surprise, they both reappeared within days of our return. Both looked healthy and glossy, so they clearly managed very well without us. And one of them brought her two kittens to see us, too.
Most of the plants in our garden died of thirst and neglect in our absence, but our grapevine has never looked better. Paco tended it well while we were away and now it is laden with great bunches of heavy, juicy fruit. We never got to taste a single grape last year, so we’re making up for lost time.
Sometimes a helicopter flies over the village and I’m immediately transported back to Bahrain where helicopter activity was a constant noise. Then I remind myself I’m back in our village, and that the helicopter is merely on the lookout for fires. So I pop another fat grape into my mouth, and wallow in the fact that we’re home, and will never have to live in the Middle East again.
Do join me on Facebook to find out how we’re coping, day to day.
Coming this year, Two Old Fools – Olé! – the sequel to ‘Chickens’.
My Spanish recipe of the month – Sherried Chorizo
(Recipe courtesy of www.OrceSerranoHam.com)
This chorizo tapas recipe is incredibly easy and quick to make and is packed full of flavour. Use spicy chorizos for a fiery kick, accompanied with fino de Jerez sherry. The flavour combination works really well and creates great tapas for the summer.
You will need:
3 Chorizo sausages
1 Spanish onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
½ teaspoon hot paprika
250ml Fino de Jerez sherry
Cracked black pepper
• Lightly fry the onion in olive oil until it begins to brown.
• Meanwhile slice the chorizo into half inch pieces.
• Add the garlic, paprika and sherry to the onion and cook until the sherry is reduced.
• Add a cup of warm water then simmer for 10 minutes.
• When the mixture has thickened add the parsley, season with pepper and stir well.
• Serve on tapas plates with fresh crusty bread and peppered vine tomatoes with olive oil.
Makes 6 tapas
“a charming and funny expat tale” The Telegraph (UK)
“Weeks later you will be doing the dishes and recall some fleeting scene with chickens or mules or two old fools and laugh out loud all over again.” The Catalunya Chronicle