New Year’s Day 2021
A year ago today I wrote the last post of ‘A Year in La Chanca’, giving it a break while I concentrated on consolidating my life in Almeria.
There were many times during the year when I almost put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) again, but with so many world shattering events taking place, it seemed almost rude to write about the minor and mundane.
But it’s the start of a new year, and it’s a good time now to look back on the old one.
So, I’ve passed my half century, I haven’t caught Covid or been shot by a rogue drug dealer and am now a very respectable Spanish-registered solicitor, still living on the dodgy side of town. Well, mostly.
The Coronavirus lockdown caught me out. Faced with the prospect of living alone in La Chanca for an indefinite period of home confinement and social deprivation, I took the soft option and ran for the hills. Specifically the hills of Bedar where I spent a very comfortable three months being part of Jeanne’s household (when not racked with lockdown guilt).
So I guess this is an indication that La Chanca is not yet my spiritual home. Or in fact my physical one, as I then swapped hills, returning home to Cariatiz for a summer reunited with the kids. One of those summers that you store away in the back of your mind to bring out, all bright and shiny in the gloom of a metaphorical winter.
Even now as I write, I am in yet another home, with my mother and Ellie and Alex in Poole, where we have just spent a lovely family Christmas locked down together.
In a year marked by separation from loved ones to some degree or another, the time we manage to spend with family or friends, after the will-they-won’t-they-make-it angst, is truly unique.
Anyway, back to La Chanca. I finally returned to resume my working life in Almeria in September, for the endgame – by which I mean the rush of pre-Brexit-deadline British residency applications.
And what a game it has been. Between the virus preventing people moving over and a change in residency rules after the UK government’s refusal to extend the transition period in July, at times it felt as though we were forever stepping on snakes and never climbing a ladder. New procedures were put in place however, and the last quarter of the year was one big push to process as many residencies as possible. It pains me to ascribe anything good to Brexit, but for me, business was booming!
Throughout all this, La Chanca became my commuter belt. I cycled off to the office first thing in the morning, and mostly didn’t return until after dark, putting in 10 hour days (give or take the essential breakfast hour and a few other city benefits).
For readers outside Spain I should explain that for the Spanish, going to a bar for breakfast half way through the working morning is sacrosanct. You can be waiting in line anywhere – at the bank, the town hall, the immigration office – and around mid morning half the workers will suddenly disappear. It doesn’t matter that you have a timed appointment, or arrived at 8.30 and have been waiting ever since. They have to have their breakfast. It is a right. Half an hour later (if you’re lucky) they’ll troop back in and business will resume.
This is incredibly irritating if you are the customer, but a good perk that I embrace at the very nice bar by my office (the difference is I am still English enough to put duty before breakfast – just in case any clients are reading this!)
Despite my working life, I have still been around enough to experience some of the highs and lows of everyday life in my unique ‘barrio’, or area.
One morning I had just got out of the shower when I heard a huge banging noise. I gingerly edged onto the balcony in my dressing gown to see what was going on, only to lock eyes with a National Police officer right below. He told me to be “tranquila”, but when I looked down the street, more police officers were breaking down the door of one of the neighbours with a large battering ram. It was obviously a raid, the road was blocked by a police van, and other officers were stationed up and down it.
I got ready for work anyway, and hung around to see if they would all go away. Eventually though I had to ask the police officer if it was all right for me to pass by on my bike. He said fine, but as I was just pushing it past the van (it was too much of a squeeze for cycling) I suddenly couldn’t remember if I’d locked my front door.
So very embarrassingly, I had to explain to the nearest officer, and walk all the way back up the street, in my suit, to check the front door. And of course, it was locked!
That was a bit of a low point for me, I just didn’t like the fact I was living in a street which had police raids. But then Carl, my very practical house sitter in Cariatiz, pointed out that I should actually see it as a comfort that the police came – it made it safer!
Another big improvement in my life there has been an unexplained but extremely welcome cease and desist of the music that used to blare out over the community, sometimes so loud that you couldn’t even talk outside, let alone enjoy a peaceful evening G&T.
There’s still music sometimes, but at nowhere near the same volume. So I might have wasted 40 euros on my noise cancelling headphones, but it’s a small price to pay if the loud music really has gone away.
The building work to the second house that Jeanne bought to extend the original accommodation also finished shortly after lockdown. She and her father now have a nice new space with all mod cons and are just waiting for all the virus restrictions to end so they can start using it properly.
We did manage to celebrate completion of the works though by holding a wonderful roof top concert during one of the low restriction periods. Local singer Sensi Falan, whom I featured in one of my previous blogs, performed her original songs to a small audience of local friends against a background of the night sky and the illuminated Alcazaba castle. It was a magical night, hopefully the first of many in the future.
So as we enter 2021, with its continuing challenges amid glimmers of hope, I am happy to continue my adventures in La Chanca. If I lose my perspective on the present, I just have to look at the ancient castle, presiding over the city for eleven centuries, and imagine the scenes it must have seen in all that time, some better, some worse than what we are facing now.
La Chanca is still neither my home nor my comfort zone, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a part of my life and I look forward to all it holds this year – always assuming I can get back there!
Happy New Year to you all!