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dispatches from europe: spain

Spain. Spring. The time of orange blossom and nightingales and rapidly changing weather.

I’m travelling hobo style, sleeping under bridges or creeping into the inadequate shelter of orange and olive groves. My tent and sleeping bag have fallen, via Australia Post, into the hands of the Spanish customs and no appeal to reason or compassion is capable of moving that authority, it seems.


But the weeds flowering amongst the garbage on the verge may as well be a garden planted for my pleasure: red poppies, sunny dandelions, dog rose, and all those I cannot name, delicate arrangements of fragile purple and white stars, a scattering of tiny yellow pom-poms on spiky twigs.


And if the highway is a torrent of fierce energy, a constant to and fro too fast to contemplate, old stones stand sentinel on the hills and a boarded up farmhouse stares across the valley as it has done for centuries. It gazes blindly back at an ancient hilltop town, the city walls guarding an empty heart given over now to sight-seers and souvenir sellers, a ghost town animated only by a group of fractious teenagers playing pakour on the historic monuments. (A youth hangs Christ-like from the metal railings above a wall, drops down to the pavement in front of a stolid señora brandishing a menacing umbrella. He strides across the road, measures up a pillar, scales it with a bound, steadies himself a moment and then leaps the gap, landing with only a minor adjustment. But by now I have passed this unfolding scene and the señora, too, has moved on, ambling up the road with her umbrella.)

Back in the hills, the wind mills are still here after all this time, multiplied and transformed by modern aerodynamic lines. They congregate on mountain ridges, like a row of crucifixes, the three pointed stars spinning atop their pedestals, waiting there for some new kind a martyr, for a reborn Don Quixote.

And everything arises from the same silence, the thundering trucks and the startled meadowlark singing in frantic ascent.


I wonder, maybe, if Frans and Fans, the two old Dutchmen on bicycles I met this morning on a freezing mountain top, wreathed in sodden clouds, might have been some kind of angels with their improbable names and welcome gifts of coffee, cake and maps.

Now the sun shines brightly, lingering until almost 9 o’clock, and after a long twilight hour, the stars light up one by one gathering into constellations that swing wildly overhead all through the chill of the night as dew drops on my unprotected sleeping bag*.


*The alert reader will note that my real sleeping bag is actually in the hands of Spanish Customs along with my tent but my kind friend, Atma, who I was staying with in Forna, passed on an old one of hers that henceforth will be referred to as my sleeping bag until such a time as I may be reunited with what is really my sleeping bag.


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