V for veggieplot

Veggieplot Chaos

Veggieplot Chaos

Villagers had tried to tell Villager G she ought to hand over her veggieplot to me, because it was silly that she was still working her hands to the bone at her age, and I was young and didn’t have any land and it was near my house.

Villager G however, continued until that faithful day when I found her on her back in a bed of salad in the pouring rain.  Villagers suggested that I had saved her life because I had actually heard her screams for help.

Shortly afterwards she went into the old people’s home, where, to everyone’s surprise she didn’t wilt as everyone had predicted, but relaxed and had her nails painted by the nurses until eventually her hard as nails body gave in and she died.

Her two daughters, not living here but visiting, asked me if I wanted to take over the veggieplot.

I was ecstatic and said yes.

I’m not an organised veggieplotter, I’m more of a pantser, I go with the flow. There is something about neat rows and order, but it doesn’t go well with me and I love experimenting.  Villager G was all about rows and neat and no weeds. She dominated nature with an iron will, her hoe and plenty of pesticide and herbicide.

I opted for a kinder approach and let nature play a bit.

Ok I let it run out of control.

But it was fun, to see what grew where when you just left nature to it, what seeds preferred what spots. The plot and I became great friends.  And there were weeds and that was fine by me.

The two daughters didn’t agree with my thoughts and theories and were horrified every time they came to visit. Wails about what the rest of the village would think of it now it looked like this, how their mother would turn in her grave if she saw it.

Villager J thought it all hilarious and mimicked them every time they were gone.

This went on for three years. They turned up, threatened with strimmers and tractors, I promised to bring some order into the veggieplot.  I really didn’t want to lose it.

But they made me feel bad.  Whatever I did, I couldn’t do anything right, that I wasn’t a true veggieplotter.  It began to grate on me. Every time they turned up to check on the house, every few months, I began to get nervous.

But then someone told me the house would be let out. This wasn’t just  a surprise, but a worry also. We weren’t used to having neighbours anymore since Villager G left and now we’d have someone living opposite us.

It did cross my mind, what about the veggieplot, but I thought there would be no way they’d take it off me, it wasn’t attached to the house.

I’d helped looking after Villager G. I was one of the first at the funeral home when her coffin arrived. They wouldn’t do that to me.

When the youngest daughter turned up and told me she needed to talk to me, I knew what was up. She told me the new tenant wanted a piece of land with the house, so I needed to give it up. I did plead. But they didn’t understand that I’d become great friends with this piece of land who I knew inside out.

The new tenant turned out to be, thankfully, ok. He mentioned that the plot was big enough for two, but I had already said my goodbyes and didn’t know how to explain that it would feel like sharing a lover.

I had another plot at the bottom of the village which another villager had lend me, I’d just go down there a bit more.

It hurt when I saw the entire plot dug over by tractor.  And slowly the new tenant started to work and transform it, until one day I could walk past it without feeling an achy type of missing. I  still saw my old seeds appear, orange flowers I’d let loose.  Purple borage.  As if the plot was waving at me.

But he didn’t have time to look after it  and it slowly started to overgrow and I couldn’t help feeling satisfied that Villager G’s daughters perhaps would regret having handed it to him.  Because it certainly looked far worse now.

And one day I noticed the car of one of the daughters outside.  The badly hipped daughter was out there passive aggresively cutting away the weeds, while my neighbour was still asleep.

I first of all felt a sense of satisfaction, and then I felt deeply sorry for my neighbour.

When the daughter was gone and I saw him outside, I spoke to him and he said he had felt ever so embarrassed, and how bad the daughter had made him feel, saying her mother would turn in her grave.

I told him it wasn’t him, that they had always done this with me too. That it all needed to be rigid or nothing.

The daughters haven’t turned up for a while now.

The veggieplot is still a mess to this day.

It does pretty much what it wants to do and I’d like to think it’s because it enjoys its new-found freedom I gave it.




U is for Understanding

616849_10150943341376837_2137883090_oWhen we moved here I didn’t speak the language. I’m a learning on the job type of person so that didn’t bother me too much; I jumped in with all the enthusiasm I could muster.

Learning a new language through immersion mainly involves not being scared of making a fool of one self. It’s quite amazing how with  limited vocabulary, gestures and plenty of pointing  you can achieve a lot.  And I’ve always had marvelous teachers. I had a wonderful neighbour when I lived in Portugal who taught me the basics of Portuguese for instance,  and here in the village villager C  took me under her wing.

Galician is a bit like an old style Portuguese,  but it’s still very different.  Villager C somehow understood everything I tried to say and often translated when other villagers didn’t get me in the beginning.

Within no time I had the hang of basic village speak.

I even learnt names of tools and plants and  pig slaughter related terminology in Galician without knowing what they’re called in English.

In a way I’m glad I didn’t learn Spanish before coming here. Although this is Spain, not all villagers, surprisingly so perhaps, don’t actually speak Spanish.

I’ve once witnessed Spanish relatives from another villager coming here who tried to chat to villager S but she kept shaking her head saying she didn’t understand, while I did.

In town people tend to speak more Spanish than Galician and I have picked up a decent level of Spanish too, however, I prefer speaking Galician. Town people are always astonished when they hear “a foreigner speaking better Galician than us.”

When I found my immersion level had reached saturation point, I decided upon doing a Galician course and retrieved books from a teacher from the local school. Faithfully I dedicated several hours a day to the task, learning new verbs and expressions.

One Sunday I (full of enthusiasm) joined the few villagers who, as always on Sunday, had gathered on the bench outside villager J`s house. I was determined  to show off my new-found skills.

However, I only got confused faces in reply when I spoke. Why was I speaking like that? Villager S asked me. I explained that this was the real Galician I  had learned from a book. He shook his head. “Stop doing that course.” he said. “Just speak like us. Otherwise we can’t understand you.”

Since then, I  found out there is actually 3 languages here, Spanish, official Galician and Village Galician. 4 if you take into account that there are regional differences as well.

I abandoned the course.

I’m now fluent in Village Galician. And even though the villagers don’t always entirely get me, at least they understand me.


T is For Tactless and Truth

“Hasn’t she put on weight, that one.” Villager O comments on Villager S’ granddaughter who’s just cycled past and definitely isn’t out of earshot. Villager O is certainly right, it is a bit of a who ate all the chorizo scenario, but I’m feeling dreadfully sorry for the girl.

Where in the UK people might mention something about someone’s weight loss (don’t you look great!), in the village all is fair game. When they’re fat they’re called fat and when they’re skinny they’re skinny. When your clothes are nice they are nice, and when they are not they’re not. Kids aren’t spared.

The first time I heard villager  O utter the f word to one of the village kids I was horrified and shocked,  worried about the terrible effects this might have on their self-esteem of the kids. But they seem ok in general.

Villagers  tend to be more worried though about skinny  kids and if he or she is eating well enough.

I’ve been on the receiving end of plenty of tactlessness. Villager J as well as Villager M have told me I ought to stop dressing like a bag lady. Villager O tells me all the time that my potato planting skills suck.

The  most unnerving thing is the moment before tactlessness, when you know you’re being scrutinised (Villagers excel at this, they literary look you up and down) and then the comment.

Villager C’s daughter, who is my age, was a bit on the chubby side a while back and villager O told her in her face that she had put on a lot of weight and that she ought to lose a bit. When I berated villager O that  that wasn’t a very nice thing to say, villager C’s daughter actually said to me “but it is true, I have, and I need to lose weight!”

That made me think. Of course tactlessness isn’t exactly nice, and the truth hurts, but isn’t it preferable to hear the truth at times, rather than being handed a carefully knitted woolen lie? It might look nice but it actually bloody itches when you wear it.

Isn’t being overly polite often more rooted in a worry how people might perceive us if we tell them the truth, and the effects it would have on us if we’d upset them?

Tactlessness is in many ways so much easier. The beating around the bush all the time, being polite, being nice, sometimes just a clear “You really piss me off today” works miracles. Telling it like it is, is quite liberating.

Especially when afterwards you can still be friends. The way it is in this village.

S is for Sounds

IMG_0674I always wonder how the bird kingdom decides who gets to start the dawn chorus. Picking straws?

It’s like a feathered vocal flashmob outside every morning and it’s worth getting up early for.

Village sounds are season related, just like Village smells.

In the beginning of the year the village is relatively quiet.  Around the end of January, depending on the weather, there’s snapping sounds coming from the vineyards when villagers prune their vines. Around February/March the tractors come out of their sheds, filling the village with their whirring.  Villager O’s ancient tractor, which ought to belong in a museum, stands out, it creaks and rattles.

The sounds of birds dominate early Spring and I always sigh a breath of relief when hearing the first cuckoo. His call announces Spring, although sometimes he arrives wearing a winter coat and umbrella. The Hoopoe is next.

In March the first crickets begin to chirp,  but there is an extremely loud variety here which does so in the evening and it’s not exactly chirping. It’s near deafening hence probably made illegal in other European countries.

When it’s getting warmer and the villagers are in a good mood, there is humming and singing and when they have colds they make that typical guttural throat clearing noise which is awe-inspiring and terrifying at the same time.

Villager often J sings, soprano voice. Butcher friend whistles the most entrancing tunes I’ve ever heard, accompanied by the creaking of his donkey cart. I always expect he’s being followed by other creatures just as entranced as I am, an alternative rat catcher of Hameln. Quite astonishing a man that ugly can produce that beautiful sounds.

The sound of little hooves always makes me go outside, just in case a donkey has  escaped.

On Sunday morning the village women replace their books and trainers for shiny polished church shoes,  and it’s clicking heels.

In Autumn it’s more tractors, donkey carts and wheelbarrows, when the harvesting is on the way.

During the rain season dripping noises indicate the roof still hasn’t been entirely fixed.

In December the squealing starts. It completely unnerved me the first time I heard it, sometimes it goes on far too long until you’d hear the bang of the gun, knowing it is over. I’m not religious but I tend to pray for it to be quick.

This year the noises indicating Spring arrived late.  The cuckoo was late, the crickets were late.

But I heard a fly beforehand.  I normally find those immensely irritating, their buzzing,  but in this case it felt, for just a few seconds, like summer already.

Sometimes hope arrives on the back of a single buzzing fly: the reassurance that no matter what, the seasons will change.

R is for Rage

AwgGoGzCMAMwn1b.jpg largeGalician Village life: Villagers roam lush fields, always a smile on their sun kissed faces, soft bleating of sheep in the background, complemented with chattering birds and chirping crickets. The epitome of Tranquility and Peace.



The village is full of rage.

It starts early in the morning with villager S, my neighbour. She will more often than not yell for her husband (Manueeeel) to either get out of the kitchen or come into the kitchen, go to the shed, or come out of the shed. Immediately.

The majority of the time you can hear pots or pans or buckets (or anything else that can clang  or bang) clanging from her courtyard, in echo of her voice which often goes into a near broken high pitch. They’ve changed her tablets again, she told me last week. Her nerves, you see, she whispered.

Villager S used to have a cow to take everything out on,  its skin a creamy milky white, hip bones jutting out like a bovine model. She had a holy air but was anything but. And running she could, with villager S ranting and raging behind her.  Because the stable wasn’t the place she wanted to be.

Villager J’s wife rages mainly at Villager J.  J is normally referred to as “useless” and her expression when talking about men in general makes it seem as if she’s genuinely flabbergasted about the fact that God created Adam, when Eve obviously could do it all better. Wherever something needs to be done, J will turn up too late or too wrong, or simply too J.

But the one who wins the rage race is Enraged Enrique.

Man of Epic Rants and Rage.  Imagine Basil Fawlty but then set in a Galician Village.

Enraged Enrique will always lend a helping hand where he can, will ask how things are and will agree the weather is terrible or lovely and he often smiles and brings me bags of apples if it’s the season.  He’s a highly skilled trumpet player, and in summer, doors and windows open, you can hear the sounds of trumpets drift along the heat haze of the village lane.

Just don’t get him to rage.

The vineyard next to the veggieplot I borrow, belongs to Enraged Enrique, and last summer I was digging up my potatoes while he raged against the vines. Their leaves were too leafy apparently.

His cows bear the biggest brunt. They walk too fast or they walk too slow, eat the wrong piece of grass or not enough grass.

And politics. Politics can get him into a near stutter rage, words laced with expletives spilling from his mouth.

”If it’s not our government fucking us over, then it’s the wild boar digging up our potatoes.” Epic words from Enraged Enrique.

He became ill a few years ago, and was in hospital for a while. There was talk he had to sell his cows. But he returned.  I told him to stop scaring us so much, with being ill and in hospital.

And that the village without him, just isn’t the village.

Q is for Quarry

View in the mist

Up in the hills, about a mile away, there is an old disused granite quarry. The area is quite  overgrown with shrubs and trees,  and to the untrained eye, when you venture up there, you’d think you’ve stumbled upon ancient mysterious settlements.

Some spots look as if they are giant raided tombs, or half hidden temples. In autumn they fill up with water, which gives it an eery atmosphere.

Since moving here, I have developed a great affinity with rock, granite in specific. I adore the silence of granite, its voluptuous solidity, shaped by erosion, the dappled grey patterns.

Our house is made of solid granite blocks, like all houses in this village. We bought it of villager C, it had belonged to her parents and her father built it, she told us. He cut and moved all the granite blocks from the quarry with his ox cart.

I was in awe of this. How did he do it? What kind of tools did they use to do that, to lift these blocks? She couldn’t tell me much about it , apart from saying that they just sort of chipped it to shape it.

How on earth they managed to drive the carts down the substantially steep slope, I have no idea. I’d like to find out more how it actually worked, the process of quarrying.

A few years ago, shortly after we moved here, there were rumours going round about a company wanting to mine gold. I’m truly glad that didn’t happen, because it would have meant the dirt track into the hills would have been turned into a road and we’d have trucks driving past our house on a regular basis.

The Roman’s have been quarrying the area too. and there’s evidence of even older ancient settlements nearby. I’ve always assumed there must have been a lot more petroglyphs in the area, like the big one I came across.

I’ve discovered a few more stone carvings within a km distance, but plenty of them must have been either overlooked or ignored, the need for stone blocks to build houses greater than the need to preserve their ancestor’s art, or graffiti.  (We always assume all these symbols might have a greater meaning, but for all we know we might be staring and trying to analyse some stone scratchings from a few iron age hoodlums.)

Recently  I asked Villager J what he knew about the quarries.  He didn’t know much about it either, but he said it was rubbish what villager C had said, it wasn’t her father at all who had built our house. Yes he was a stone mason, but he didn’t build the house we lived in. Villager C’s parents had bought the original building and extended it slightly. The previous owners,  Manuel and Josephina he mentioned, moved to Argentinia and never returned.

I could ask Villager C about this. But I must say I prefer the story of her father going into the hills with his ox cart and building this place by hand.

I think she prefers it too.

P is for Progress

There used to be a dirt track into the village, Villager J tells me. They didn’t need a road because no one had cars. It was just horses and ox carts. No running water, the water came from their wells. Women washed the clothes in the washing tanks. People took their grains to one of the mills near the river and baked bread in stone ovens.

Progress arrived here eventually, reluctantly, but I can imagine at a devastating pace, because the remnants of life before progress are visible everywhere still.

Walk around the village and venture in some of the old  houses and sheds, long abandoned properties, of owners who have gone of to Venezuela, Mexico or Argentina, never to return again, and you can see the ancient relics of the past.

The roof of the shed might have caved in, crumbling mattresses piled on, but pull  those mattresses away and there it is, the old ox cart, one wooden wheel fallen off.

A dusty lead rope hangs on a nail of part of a wall which is still standing, and behind some old wine barrels a rusty plough. The partitions of the stable have nearly rotten through but it’s pretty clear where the animals would have been, cows most likely. In the corner a stone drinking trough. These go for good money now, people like putting them as ornaments in their gardens.

One of the old properties no longer has doors. Someone has wrecked the cast iron top and front of the old cooker in the room upstairs, the walls blackened with sooth, a bed without a spring in another room.  The spring would have been used as an alternative fence.

The gypsies, people say, the gypsies go in and take it all. They see them as despicable scavenging hyenas, dragging things off with their hunched bodies, not to a cave, but into their not so sparkly white vans. But according to Villager L it’s often Villager J who goes scavenging. Don’t trust him, he  says.  I trust Village J regardless. Sometimes it’s better the devil you know.

I make my way through an overgrown courtyard and peek into another shed, I adjust my eyes to the dark, in the middle there is a massive weaving tool, I can’t quite make out what it is, but there’s even still some wool on it.

Where have all the people progressed to?

There doesn’t seem to be an in between generation as such. The donkeys and horses were hastily replaced with cars and credit, things were whitewashed over initially, kitchens suddenly white rather than blackened with sooth and women had washing machines.

Recently the younger generation, out of nostalgia perhaps, have decided to pay homage to what was in the past, by placing the old ploughs  and ox carts as ornaments in neatly mowed lawns , memorials to the slaving their parents used to do on the land, their callused hands.  That land. I used to grow potatoes there. And they want grass to sit on. I guess that is progress.

Villager M’s previously plastered walls have been sandblasted to reveal the granite blocks behind it, granite which was removed by hand from the quarries in the hills, moved by ox carts.  Her son has made a coffee table out of a cut in half barrel, a glass top.

Rustic is suddenly in again.

Perhaps it’s never been out as such. They might have their pressure cookers now, but the older generation is still clinging on to the old ways. They demand their offspring to come home in the weekends and help them with the vinyards, the potatoes, the haying.

Yes, maybe they have machines for that now, and instead of ploughing with oxes they have tractors, they still demand it gets done. Tarmac or no tarmac, credit or no credit.

The good thing about progress, is that women have it a lot better now, I discuss with Villager E.  Yes, that is the case, but there’s this other problem, she says. Now there’s so much more stress. People are getting ill with it. They might have their washing machines and cars, she says, but…it doesn’t seem to be as what she thought she signed up for.

And while everyone is progressing, digressing and regressing, I keep a look out for old and trying to learn, taking in those old skills wherever I can.

O is for Olfaction

Olfaction, noun

1. the sense of smell
2. the act of function of smelling

Smell can evoke long-lost memories, but certain smells in the village seem to go far beyond that, to a time I cannot possibly remember.

The smell of the first fires at the end of summer for instance, when temperatures drop in the evenings  and the villagers are lighting their cast iron wood burners.  Every year it stops me in my tracks, as if I’ve just arrived home, a strong sense of belonging.

In the heat of summer however, the smell of fire is a different story, it sets my adrenaline off.  Nothing brings out my inner Stone Age Woman more.  It’s possible for the smell of  forest fire smoke to descent from areas far away in the evenings,  causing me to run outside and scan my direct environment for signs of devastation.

Village smells which you only really notice strongly in the beginning are the Eucalyptus and pine trees.  After a while it blends into the landscape somehow, only getting a bit stronger again in Spring when the eucalyptus trees are flowering.

There are season related smells, the smell of mimosa being one of the most profound ones in late February, simply intoxicating, indicating Spring isn’t far off.

Summer has its own blend, hay being part of that, and in late summer the faint sweet smell of fruit which hasn’t been picked, rotting on the ground.

I shouldn’t forget the smell of the wine harvest. First the barrels which people roll outside and clean out,  the smell of old wet oak, followed by the  grapes themselves when they are being driven past in the carts, and in the end the smell of fermenting grapes.

Autumn is dominated by the smell of rot, I find it strange how essentially rotting  can smell so wonderful.  And the smell of mushrooms!  I went on a course once and we were encouraged to smell the different types, some smell of apple, others of creamy milk.

In winter, especially the beginning of December, there is the smell of burnt pig skin, which is part of slaughter and which actually clings to your nostrils so horrible, but it only lasts a short while. Later that month the entire village smells of chorizo. There is nothing like it.

In regards to foods, I used to hate the smell of boiled meat, especially the salted meat  variety which requires a substantial amount of boiling time, but now I love it, when it wafts through open windows I can already taste the comforting warm broth, the tender meat and can hear the crunch of freshly baked bread which I’d use to dip.

There’s only one  food smell I really don’t like. Boiled octopus. It is a depressing type of smell, especially when emitted from the stalls in the town market, worse during the rain season.

I have no problem whatsoever with the smell of innards, I can stand with my face above a steaming pile of pig guts and clean the lot. Even removing the contents of pig stomach before cleaning it leaves me relatively unfazed. My nose is always hyper alert during the precise job of separating the guts from membranes, you’d think  it smells of shit, but it actually doesn’t. The slightest whiff of shit means holes in the guts, holes in guts need prompt action, or it can spoil the lot if not fixed quickly.

All these smells…I’d like to bottle them, to somehow turn them into a library of village smells.

But for now, all I can do is write them down.

N is for Neighbours

An off-white BMW is parked at the edge of the village and a 50-ish bloke with with a mullet and a lived out face is walking around with C, whose pantsuit matches the BMW. Great village outfit, not.

C  isn’t a villager, she lives in the city and  she inherited  a house and some sheds from an uncle. I’ve written about her before on my blog, and not in a kind way. None of the villagers like her and Villager J and I always mimic her mannerisms after she’s gone.

I’m guessing this man is a potential buyer of the house she owns, opposite mine.  There have been others to look at the property before and it has been for sale for ages, so I’m trying not to get too worried.


“You’re going to get a new neighbour!” villager J says when I see him the next day. I’m not sure if he’s joking, because winding me up is one of his favorite pastime pursuits. “Yeah right.” I say.  “No, I’m serious, C has sold the shed next to Tonta’s house, guy who bought it says he’s going to convert it .”

“But I thought C let Tonta use it for her firewood?”

“Yes but it isn’t hers, C can sell it if she wants to, you don’t think its nice, having new  blood in the village?”

I’m thinking of how to answer him for only a second or two and my resolute no follows.

“Why not?  It would be nice having new blood in the village, besides, we accepted you here .”  We’ve had this conversation before.  “I arrived here with husband and a young child and I was more or less vetted.” I point out.

“And you have proven yourself to be a worthwhile addition to the village.” J says. “Just as well that you’ve always behaved well. Don’t think for one minute we’d not all had turned our backs on you if you hadn’t.”

I laugh, but I know he’s serious. And he repeats the story about the woman in the other village nearby who had moved there from Barcelona, she didn’t behave well.


A few weeks have passed and I think that Villager J simply  exaggerated , so the calm returns.

Why am I so opposed to change and new neighbours?  First and foremost, the large grass courtyard at the back is communal, if someone would buy C’s house we’d suddenly have to share it.  However, if this guy has bought the shed, then luckily he wouldn’t be living directly near me. He’d be Tonta’s neighbour effectively. But I also like the fact that I am the only foreigner here. Even if he’s from Spain, he’d be considered a foreigner too, and I’ve come to like my Only Foreigner In The Village status.

Not sure if he’d be too happy  though, when he finds out about Tonta’s  triple role in the village:  the village idiot, village drunk, and serial cat keeper. She’s harmless but a bit of a nuisance, turning up slurring in front of our house on occasion, followed by her mob of cats wanting to fight with mine.


A few days later I spot the off white BMW again and my heart sinks.  This man is serious.

I walk up to J’s house to see what’s going on.  He’s sitting on the wooden bench outside his house with a few other villagers who have gathered. “Yes, they’re actually doing the deal now. ” Villager J says. He’s points in the direction of Tonta’s house, and there they are, C and her husband with their stuck in Swiss 80s dress and Mullet man, as well as Tonta.

“I wonder what Tonta makes of it all.” I say.

“They’re obviously going to introduce her to him, I think. ”

Tonta doesn’t look happy, we can tell that from where we’re sitting.


Villager J told me later in the evening that Tonta didn’t want a new neighbour. She said he could be god knows what and bring god knows what into the village, so she’d put a higher offer in than the man was willing to pay, way too much, but she’d had a lottery windfall a while back so she could afford it.

“Crazy drunk, why would she waste money to do that? Man was completely gutted, he thought it was all a done deal.”

The off-white Mercedes never returned, but the odd feeling that my status had been saved by the village idiot remained.

M is for Mail

Our local post office has a picture of the old Spanish King hanging on the wall.  It’s not hanging completely straight, which troubles me. The sun must have reached one part of the picture more, because it’s slightly faded on one side.

An old style day calendar is on the other wall, stuck on a different date than it is today, it’s one of those calendars where you have to change the numbers, at one time it must have been very modern.

Why did they decide to no longer change it on that particular day? Is it a reminder to the post man,  did something happen to him that day is only he privy to it? Did it seem pointless to change the date as the days had blended into one monotone cocktail? Or is it an intellectual joke, not allowing the calendar to be correct, apart from one day a year and have costumers ask themselves questions, like I am doing at this moment in time?

I like the mail man who works  in the post office. He’s got kind eyes and always smiles and I’m pretty sure he’s in some way related to Enraged Enrique. The longer I’ve lived here, the more I recognise the branches of the different family trees.

But however nice he is, there’s also something awkward about him, which makes me feel uncomfortable. Maybe it’s better to use another envelope for that… you have to write the address exactly there…I’ll check the price again, did you want it by express or standard? He’s always giving me too many choices I’d rather not have. I just want to send this letter.

There is a giant sorting table behind the counter which is always empty. Like a conveyor belt in an unused airport.

It’s too big, this post office, and too modern. The calendar and the mailman belong in  a tiny office in a non distinctive building, somewhere in a backstreet, a post office you could barely recognise.


Our mail gets delivered by car, by a mail lady.  She wears just that bit too much eyeliner and  her hair worries me. I know this is fashion now, but my brain always reacts to colours like that with pity, just in case something has gone wrong and she simply grabbed the wrong bottle when trying to get rid of the grey hairs.  Always a smile, but when she arrives with certified mail I know I’ll have to wait 10 minutes or so. She simply hasn’t been able to get the hang of the hand-held device. Give me that passport number again love.

The previous mail lady was a numerical genius. I have no idea what happened to her. It seems impolite to ask. She knew my passport number, which is Dutch and consists of a series of letters and numbers, by heart and reeled it off whenever I had certified mail.

Wrongly addressed mail always reaches me. There aren’t many people with just the one surname in the area.  But foreign letters end up here too, or the mail lady comes and asks me if it is maybe for me.

Not long ago there was this letter which had the village name mentioned on the address, but I didn’t recognise the  (not Spanish) name of the person. The mail lady and I were quite puzzled about this until I looked again, it was actually supposed to have gone to Romania. Turned out that our village has a namesake.

There is a possibility that mail from our village ends up there.

I like that idea, the confusion this cultural mail exchange might cause there as well.

It would be even better if they also had a calendar stuck in time.