Receiving post has always been a tad problematic since we moved to our village in the mountains of Spain. In the old days, mail used to arrive by mule, but we’ve definitely progressed since then. Haven’t we?
After moving in, as our front door didn’t sport a letterbox, one of our first jobs was to buy a mailbox. Joe struggled to fix it to the wall, as old Spanish houses are made of dry rubble held together with sand. Joe persevered, and succeeded.
“There! That’s done,” he said, standing back to admire his work. “The postman shouldn’t have any trouble with that.”
Unfortunately, our mailbox has never been exactly overworked.I suppose the fact that our house has three doors, opening onto different streets doesn’t help. Our house isn’t huge, but quirky.
“Any post?” I ask, as Joe unlocks the box daily.
“Nope, just moths,” is the usual reply.
Our mail arrives in a variety of ways. Usually, it arrives on the fish van, smelling strongly of sardines and calamari. Sometimes it comes on the bread van, and smells much sweeter. Other times, the phone rings, and Marcia from the village shop informs us that she has letters for us.
“There’s a small packet from your daughter in Australia, an electricity bill, a postcard from your friends, they’re on holiday in Lanzarote by the way, and a letter from the taxman.” Marcia may be well over 80, but nothing escapes her eagle eye.
We’ve discovered that UPS and DHL drivers flatly refuse to drive up to El Hoyo, and have devised all kinds of excuses to avoid the twisting, winding road to our village. When the phone rings in the morning, we know it’ll be a driver, needing to deliver a parcel.
“My truck is broken, can you meet me at such and such place?”
“Your village doesn’t show up on my navigation equipment.”
Joe and I know how to answer. “You know the Repsol garage at the bottom of the mountain? Near Carrefour? Put it behind the counter there.”
We can hear the relief in the driver’s voice. “I know it! I’ll leave it there.”
Sorted. So Joe climbs into the car and drives down the mountain to collect our waiting parcel from the nice staff at the Repsol garage. When he arrives home, he checks our mailbox, just in case. More often than not, there’s a little slip of paper in there, from the postman.
“We tried to deliver your packet, but nobody was in. Please collect it from the post office between the hours of 8.00am and 2.00pm.”
I’d been in the house all day, and nobody had knocked on any of our doors.
“Oh well,” says Joe, “I’ll drive down to the post office tomorrow morning. And I’d better check that nothing’s been left at Marcia’s or the Repsol garage while I’m there.”
It amazes me that we receive any post at all.
Champiñones y jamón
Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools
~15 minutes preparation~
~15 to 20 minutes cooking~
350g (12 oz) white mushrooms
100g (31⁄2 oz) serrano ham, cut into small dice
1 small green pepper
1 onion, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large tomato, chopped
1 small chili pepper, finely chopped
Handful parsley, roughly chopped
Splash of white wine
Wipe the mushrooms clean, trim the ends of the stalks and slice.
Finely chop the onion, garlic and pepper and fry for about 10 minutes in a little olive oil until they are soft and the onion is translucent.
Add the chopped parsley and the tomato to the pan and cook for five minutes more.
Add the diced ham and the chili pepper. Fry for a couple of minutes and add the mushrooms, cooking gently until the mushrooms are tender.
Raise the heat, add wine, cook for a further minute.
Add seasoning and serve on toast, or as tapas with crusty bread.
“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
Read Victoria's other Expat Focus articles here.