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Spanish Secrets: Worlds Apart

"To the left in a wooden pen were two very clean-looking cows, one jet-black and the other a lovely milk-chocolate brown colour. Not having previously seen cows in someone's house I was quite astonished at their apparent enormity in such a small space...''

Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie visit their friend Pablo who lives with his extended family in a traditional stone-built Spanish farmhouse.

This week we were fortunate to be introduced to Pablo’s wife, and 12 year old daughter Sara. Pablo works as a humble employee in a local store, and has done for the past 14 years. Prior to this he’d worked in London for three years.

It’s a matter of great personal satisfaction that he’s able to converse with us in English. At the same time he insists that we should speak more Spanish.

We have however discovered that Pablo has quite a talent for languages. In addition to his native Spanish tongue he’s also fluent in the local language of Gallego and can more than get by in; English, Italian and French.

Pablo and his family live with his mother-in-law and father-in-law in a small hamlet in the mountains.

The mere suggestion of living with in-laws would turn most families cold with fright. Loving your extended family through marriage is one thing, but the thought of living with them is quite another.

Here in Galicia this arrangement is very common and appears to harmonize not fractionalize the family unit.

This family cohabiting seems all the more peculiar to Melanie and I as Pablo has a magnificent family home in the nearby town of Monforte de Lemos.

It was built in 2001 to the highest specifications and has a total floor area of 590 square metres. Only the finest materials have been used and the fixtures and fittings are of the highest standards.

A marble staircase climbs the height of the house, from the basement garage to the five second-floor bedrooms. Rightly he’s proud of this beautiful property, but reserves his greatest pride for the fact that it was all achieved without borrowing a penny.

Despite owning this magnificent creation, Pablo and his family choose to live in the countryside with his wife’s parents in a simple, but well maintained, traditional stone built farmhouse.

Upon our arrival Pablo went into the house to bring some cooling refreshments. Excitedly his daughter Sara gestured us to enter. On approaching the dark entrance it was clear from the farmyard aroma that livestock are stabled beneath the living accommodation.

The ground floor area was warm and dimly lit. Several low wattage light bulbs dangled from the ceiling on coiled wires.

To the left in a wooden pen were two very clean-looking cows, one jet-black, and the other a lovely milk-chocolate brown colour. Not having previously seen cows in someone’s house, I was quite astonished at their apparent enormity in such a small space.

But it wasn’t these that had raised Sara’s excitement.

Standing on her tip-toes and leaning over a closed wooden fence, she gestured us to approach in silence. Synchronously Melanie and I peered over the fence. Lying on a bed of fresh straw was a newly born calf. Like its mother, it too was a milk-chocolate brown colour with large brown eyes which stared back at us.

To the right was a stone built pen with a stone trough along its base. This type of pen we’d seen before, but how many did it hold?

One, two, three, four - four little pink piggy’s, all grunting away whilst their tails wagged furiously. Sara lent over to stroke one of them, nonchalantly explaining they’d be killed in November.

Pablo returned and we went back outside into the bright sunshine. We sat around a table in the courtyard, under the shade of an apple tree, drinking ice cold water and chatting.

This house, and the families’ style of living, would not suit everyone, but it certainly suited Pablo and his family.

email address
craigandmel@msn.com

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