You know you have become truly Spanish when the biggest topic of conversation is, when will the vegman come?
When we first arrived we used him regularly. He turned up on Thursday afternoons at different times, which was annoying. Sitting around for hours waiting for the van was frustrating.
On Friday a different vegman came, but we didn’t use him. Not as much choice.
Then Thursday man added Mondays to his routine, so we had two days in which to buy cheap fresh veg delivered to our house. Back when money was plentiful, we would all rush out to be first in the queue to fight for fresh peas at four euros or so a kilo.
Some years ago, a new veg shop opened in the village. Brilliant. Not only was it cheap, she had regular delicacies such as setas, wild asparagus, or normal asparagus, always had nabos (white turnips), artichokes, fennel, and lots and lots of veg for me to drool over. She had peas and broad beans before everyone else. She’d also buy them in for me. So vegman bit the dust.
But, when I returned after my broken ankle exile, she had closed. Gone. Shut. Fin. I was gutted. Back to vegman, who had now changed his routine to morning calls. Much, much better. So we resumed our gracious patronage of all of three or four euros. Times are hard and money’s tight, so the veg are cheap now.
On Monday, Partner sat outside with his list and some cash. After a while, he asked the neighbours if el vercero was coming.
‘Oh no. He’s got to take his brother to hospital today and on Thursday. He’s coming Tuesday and Friday this week.’
OK. We could live with that. We had enough to manage for another day.
Tuesday it rained. Partner had planned to take Big Dog for his annual jabs. Nobody does anything in the rain in Spain. By the same token, I reasoned vegman wouldn’t come.
‘Yes, he’ll come,’ said Partner confidently. He didn’t.
By Wednesday, Partner grudgingly went to the village supermarket for a few veg, not too many in case vegman turned up.
‘You’re buying veg?’ said Loli on the check-out.
‘Well yes, the vercero hasn’t been and he’s cheaper.’
He didn’t come on Wednesday either. (Big Dog got his jabs though).
The nasturtium came out, and the rosebud bloomed.
Thursday morning our neighbours and us asked each other if he would turn up. We were all out of veg. And they’re not even vegetarian. None of us could hazard a guess. We speculated about Thursday, Friday or maybe next week.
Around 11am we heard a familiar toot. Yes! The vegman cometh.
Partner grabbed the purse, his list and his gafas.
Next door, José said ‘Anda!’ and then for our benefit, ‘El vercero’.
For somebody aged 86, he shot out of his gate pretty quickly.
Partner was second in the queue.
‘You should let him go first,’ said Adelina. ‘He’ll be faster.’
‘I’m first,’ said José.
‘No pasa nada,’ said Partner, who really didn’t care.
They spent fifteen euros.
We spent €3.95 on a kilo of potatoes, three pimientos, three tomatoes, a bunch of nabos, four carrots, a cucumber and a courgette. Good huh?
José and Partner weren’t the only ones, Maria next door on the other side of José was waiting too.
‘How’s your wife?’ she asked. And then, as Partner finished his haul, ‘That’s cheap’.
‘They don’t eat meat. Only vegetables,’ said veg man proudly passing on this fascinating titbit.
He’d learned it the previous week from Adelina. He’d said we’d bought a lot of veg and Adelina said ‘They don’t eat meat.’ And as his jaw dropped, she added the finishing touch, ‘Nor fish either.’
Maria was stunned enough to discover we didn’t eat meat, so vegman never added the finishing touch about no fish.
It’s interesting that in these days of prepackaged plastic-wrapped foods from hypermarkets that a delivery van can still earn a living. Not a good one, he tried to chuck it at one point for a council job, but it was temporary and after three months he was back in the van shrugging his shoulders.
When he was asked why he didn’t turn up on the Tuesday in the pouring down rain, he said it wasn’t worth it. While the three of us might have stood there under our brollies, how many others would? Plus, he delivers to a lot of campo houses down dirt tracks that turn to mud at the first fall of heavy rain.
But isn’t it more sound to have one person delivering fresh veg to everyone than tens or hundreds of people all jumping in their cars to go to the nearest supermarket? We also have bread delivery vans and fish vans too.
There are so many images of Spain. Flamenco, bull-fighting, wonderful music, all night parties on the beach, religious processions, tapas, fresh orange juice, the list is endless. There is no one ‘real Spain’. My village life in La Axarquía where the non-appearance of the veg man is the main discussion of the week is just one view. Or perhaps we are like the characters in O’Neill’s play The Iceman Cometh? Waiting for the vegman? Or maybe we are in Waiting for Vegman by Beckett? (except vegman did come unlike Godot).
And if we aren’t waiting for the veg man, we discuss the rain. It rained yesterday, it will rain tomorrow. Or the day after. Intellectual conversation? No. But easy. Very easy. Sometimes it is nice not to discuss the state of the world (terrible) or how many people in the village have died recently. Rain and the vegman make for easy chat. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed.
Rainy day photos.
And food …