Even rich people suffer in times of economic depression. Honestly.
So as a contrast to the family of six adults living out of two old age state pensions and a part-time cleaning job, I thought I would tell the tale about the other side of the street. Literally.
Spain has this quaint term called ‘front line’ relating to properties. If you have a flat in a block that directly overlooks the beach, it is called front line. If you are the next block back, you are ‘second line’. OK so you can’t see the beach, but it still isn’t too far to walk for idle Spaniards.
I don’t think the description goes any further than second or third line, because after that it doesn’t matter.
Our village is not directly on the beach, it is about ten minutes walk away. An extremely nice round trip takes about 40 mins although nearer an hour in summer.
However, the street we live in, is known as front line. It is part of the old town and marks the end of the housing with views to the Mediterranean. There are about five family plots that take up most of the street. I’m including ours in that, as originally, it was part of the next door family plot, and they treat us like adopted family inasmuch as we get share-outs of family veg from the relatives up the back, we get leftover food, and – the big one – we get to go in their house to watch football! when Spain is playing, or for whatever other reason.
But across from all of these five plots is one huge finca, owned by a family further down the coast who deal in gold in Marbella and Málaga. Or they did when we first arrived. They have never lived there, but they did have beautiful horses which occasionally went to shows, a peacock and a couple of parrots plus loads of dogs and chickens.
We’ve always got on well with the groundsmen and the horse people who have worked there, and Partner has been inside a few times to help with mechanical problems or anything that needed an extra hand as a favour.
The arrogant owners have occasionally acknowledged our inferior presence when they have pulled up to collect eggs and generally make sure everything is going ok.
One day, we arrived back from Gib to find an empty finca. The groundsman had been sacked, and the horses moved to another finca. Because when you have money, you have more than one huge finca worth millions.
Since then, the ground has continued to be worked by various different agricultural workers, there are about four huge fields that grow mainly potatoes, but also courgettes and cabbage.
Just before Christmas, someone appeared. Someone was living there.
It turned out to be a relative whose business had gone bust and he had no money. Well, in as much as he wasn’t working and had nowhere to live. He still has his silver BMW. Comes from Barcelona apparently. This family has relatives all over Spain.
He’s a nice guy, friendly, and speaks amazingly clear Spanish which is somewhat disconcerting when we have got used to the Andaluz habit of dropping and slurring the endings of words.
He goes down to the bar for a bit of breakfast around 11am (he didn’t do that originally) and our neighbour collects the bread for him from the bread van, and he potters across later on to collect it. Our neighbours hold a key for him too, in case he is out and something needs to be delivered.
Recently he was out and a big silo was dismantled, presumably either to be sold, or moved elsewhere. Asset stripping your own assets in fact.
What fascinates us about this story is that it is just unbelievable. UK families that I know do not work like that. If you are out of work – tough shit. Apart from the fact that both our families don’t own multiple properties, they wouldn’t have put us up anyway in a grace and favour house. My parents did home us (for free) on return from Australia until I got a job in London. Partner’s mother said we could stay there too, as long as we paid our way. On the UK dole? Yeah, right. Not much competition there staying in a poky three-bed terrace and paying, and a large three-bed detached for free.
I should add, that years later, my father told us that we were on our own.
So, two sides of the coin, two sides of the street. But in both cases, families supporting the ones without income.
Meanwhile next door, my neighbour has suddenly started growing onions from sets in plantpots. He used to grow veg at some ground next to his daughter’s (up the street of course) but that got sold off (all Spanish ground is owned by fifty members of the same family of course and this was more someone else’s ground than his son-in-law’s).
But his terrace was always reserved for flowers and tiny guindillas (red chillis) because he likes the look of them. Now, shortage of money has made him decide to grow veg on the terrace. Or perhaps he has been encouraged by my veg growing and realised it isn’t such a bad thing to do after all.
I still have rocket, escarole, espinacas/acelga and parsley. Some of the newly planted habas/broad beans have germinated, and it looks as though a few of my onion seeds are coming through too. Broad beans are 1.90€ a kilo. A pack of seeds cost 1.45€ I think I may be planting some more.
Always grow what works for you. I have always been successful with brassicas, salad, potatoes and beans. So that’s what I’ll be growing over the winter season.
More economical/austerity/penny-pinching measures:
Partner went into town on the bike after it had been raining and fell off down the river bed. Idiot! Luckily he fell into a pile of river sand. This is why, when we used to go out on the tandem, I would jump off when I thought he was going too fast and recklessly.
We finally realised that our 82-year-old neighbour hadn’t stopped having a perm for fashion reasons. It saved going to the hairdresser and paying unnecessary money. It looks better anyway, chic and short. Her daughter always referred to it as caracolas – because it looked like curly snails.
The peg bag split (RSPB) after 20 something years. They don’t make things like they used to do they? The straps on the bike panniers went. Same comment. Solution? Make pannier into new peg bag.
I have renewed my love affair with Spanish buses. They are a) comfortable and b) cheap (I have travelled from one end of Spain to the other for around 60€) and c) normally leave on time. Of which more next time as this post is not about buses. Except that they are cheap.