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Spanish Secrets: Meteorological Or Metaphorical

"Being the only English residents in the village, we receive a curious selection of mail, especially at this time of year. It seems that all the mail bearing an English stamp is delivered to us. The actual name and address of the intended recipient appears to take a secondary role in identification...'' Craig Briggs vividly conveys the slowing beat and rhythm of life in a Galician village in these muted grey days of winter.

Time seems to pass much slower during the winter months. The dark damp nights last longer and are followed by much shorter, muted grey days. The daytime allows only fleeting glimpses of blue sky and warming sunshine. These flashes of sunlight signal a brisk walk for Melanie and I, and our dog, Jazz.

The winter landscape is very different to that of the summer, but no less beautiful. Songbirds flit in and out of the hedgerows searching for their next meal and the heather turns a deep purple. This is Nature’s dormant period, when summers hidden woodlands and overgrown fields reappear. The land's natural contours are once again visible.

At this time of year, the usually quiescent roadside drainage ditches fulfil their intended design. Throughout the year they line the highways and byways as if attending a roadside vigil. When dark clouds gather and the heavens open, these dry, weed infested trenches transform into free-flowing canals, keeping the road network safe for drivers. These life saving channels can have unexpected and often fatal consequences for other elements of the native wildlife.

Small lizards flee their flooded homes and clamber onto the smooth black tarmac. From the tips of their tails to the ends of their noses they measure between 12 and 20 centimetres (6 to 10 inches). Their waxy skin is a dark-green almost black colour dotted with bright yellow spots. As we walk with the dog their tiny carcases litter the lane, victims of man's ingenuity.

Without the sun to brighten our lives we eagerly wait for the postal delivery; a ray of artificial sunlight on a grey winter’s day. Such wet and overcast times make receiving and opening our mail an enjoyable pleasure.

Postal deliveries here, in the heart of Northern Spain, are much less formal and far less predictable than the service provided by the Royal Mail in England. Our nearest post office is in Sober, the village of our parish council. The postman travels around the remote rural villages using his own small white car. Throughout the year the mail’s arrival is signalled by Jazz’s excited and very loud barking.

On the whole, the service is very good. Letters sent to us from England normally take about two days to arrive. Mail travelling in the opposite direction tends to take twice as long. I suspect the first two days are spent in the local sub-post office, waiting for someone to sort them.

Being the only English residents in the village, we receive a curious selection of mail, especially at this time of year. It seems that all the mail bearing an English stamp is delivered to us. The actual name and address of the intended recipient appears to take a secondary role in identification.

Last week saw the arrival of our first Christmas card from England. To be fair to the sender, my sister Julie, it cleverly doubled as an advent calendar and also contained an informative letter. She writes to us on a regular basis with news and gossip. Simply reading about the numerous activities of her family’s busy lives leaves Melanie and I exhausted. With two teenage lads, they always seem busy doing one thing or another.

Having read our post we busy ourselves, waiting for the next break in the clouds – meteorological or metaphorical.

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craigandmel@msn.com

Copyright © 2005 Craig Briggs

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