A cold January with Filomena causing chaos in Northern Spain has given way to a very mild and pleasant February. It is crazy to think that we are almost a year in to this strange way of living. At the moment all our cafes and restaurants are closed and we can’t travel out with the municipality of Murcia city. We love an adventure, even a mini one and normally do something for my birthday in January but not this year! After painting the living room ( 18 foot high ceiling at one point) Walt found another creative outlet… country roads still within the municipality that allowed him out on the motorbike!
The crazy weather in the north touched us just a little with cold winds, night time temperatures of nearly zero and snow on the Sierra Espuña. It’s all gone now to be replaced by pale pink and white almond blossom. Our urbanization used to be terraces of olive, citrus and almond trees. There are a few wild ones left and despite no watering system they manage to flower and fruit each year. We discovered on our Christmas walk with neighbours that there are many underground springs in the hills and woods above us. With so little rain it does always seem amazing just how green our ´back garden´ is and how the boars, rabbits , squirrels and bird life thrive. Our neighbours took us in to a cave where a spring made everything green and damp. Scrambling down over mossy tree trunks with the smell of pine and damp soil was almost like being in a Scottish woodland! The eucalyptus and and odd palm tree among the pines reminded us otherwise! Another local small tree or shrub that I had never heard of is the hollyoak. I had noticed the shrub with small holly like leaves and was puzzled by acorns lying nearby. In my ignorance I thought hollyoak was a name created by a TV screenwriter! This only goes to show that we never stop learning .
My written rambles seem to stop and start at the moment. The mild February has regressed just in time for March! We are allowed out with the municipality now and so spent the last two Saturdays on the motorbike heading to the coast. Fabulous twisty roads, wild lavender, sea air and chilly weather! By the time we get home, the stove is needed to thaw us out! Not used to this!
Some other new stuff learned as we approach the first anniversary of going ‘not very far’ and a year since our last house guest, my daughter Hannah , falls in to two categories .
I will start with gardening! This has been a learning curve much longer than the current crisis but light bulb moments have occurred and augmented the long term process. The climate and growing seasons , the envy felt about my huerto neighbours’ harvests and finally nasturtiums blooming in February made me realise that things are very , very different here! ( stating the obvious I know but I think I was still subconsciously trying to garden like a Scot!). Patience and copying the locals is finally paying of. No matter how strange it feels, I have come to accept that many of the plants , vegetables and flowers that I expect to see thriving in the summer just can’t take the heat. I have also learned that a veggie garden here thrives on a good amount of benign neglect. It doesn’t seem to like being fussed over or even weeded! Our courgettes last summer were a disaster while next door’s weed patch produced wonderful courgettes…some as big as marrows! While the huerto is still experimental and we are about to begin preparing it for spring planting, my little patio garden has brought me great joy! I planted nasturtiums seeds in November and sweet peas just after Christmas. I have had masses of fresh coriander , flat leaf parsley and the oregano that I thought I had killed is going crazy once more. I also have some baby lemons on a pot planted tree. This has taken two years to happen. Previous blossoms have looked and smelled gorgeous then just dropped off! It all seems rather strange in February and I must admit that I do sometimes miss snowdrops and daffodils but this makes up for it!
What this very strange year has also taught me is just how resilient people are and how little difference there is between any of us even when cultural differences might tempt you to think so. I am teaching 10 hours a week online to students from all over Spain. Like homeworkers the world over, I have now been in my students’ living rooms and kitchens, met their children and pets and learned about customs from Catalunya to Andalusia, Madrid to the Basque Country. Every Monday morning, even when our lives have been so restricted and changed by the pandemic there are smiles and laughter. Everyone has had enough and wants to see and hug family and friends from other regions or countries but we still manage to joke and laugh. Patience is the virtue that we all agree we have had to nurture this year. When I first began writing my blog about moving to Murcia, I think I expected the differences in our life here versus that in Scotland to outnumber the similarities. The cultural, weather and language differences are what make this journey fascinating but the similarities between us all whether on zoom or in the street talking to neighbours about the weather are what make this home and that’s a huge learning curve!
Here’s to vaccines, hugs and family round the table on our roof again. We might need to be patient for a few more months but that is small beer after the last 12.
Post script. I feel that this one year anniversary of ‘ life in the time of covid’ and the 4th anniversary of our adventure beginning is a good time to change the direction of the blog a little. It’s a work in progress. Watch this space!