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Spanish Secrets: The Energy Of Youth

Craig Briggs writes of two splendid, hard-working village folk, his neighbours Chuchi and Teresa.

For the real Spain, for a taste of village life that is far removed from the glitz and clatter of the Costas, read more of Craig’s columns. Click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.

When it comes to hard work, many of our village neighbours put Melanie and me to shame. A local couple who clearly highlight this fact are Chuchi and Teresa.

Their lives centre on their village home and their small enclosed huerta (allotment). They live in a brick-built house, which up until a few weeks ago was half clad with beige bathroom tiles. Judging by the number of properties in the area with a tiled finish, it was obviously a popular styling back in the 60’s. Forty years on, it looks decidedly tasteless and garish. With this in mind they decided to change it.

Today’s popular fashion is to clad the walls with natural stone. It’s a sympathetic and subtle finish, far more in keeping with the rural surroundings. But it is an expensive process, particularly for a jobless couple living off the land.

To help reduce the cost, Chuchi spent day-after-day labouring in the hot sun. He chipped away at the hideous tiles with a hammer and chisel until they were all removed. The sweltering work and long hours didn’t seem to bother him, but for a man constantly on the move it was a distraction he could ill afford.

During the cold winter months, Chuchi and his wife Teresa live on the ground floor of their house. Here there are three rooms; a combined kitchen, dining and living room, a bedroom and a bathroom. The kitchen features a wood-burning stove. This provides them with their cooking facility and their sole source of heating.

Chuchi prepares his winter fuel the previous spring. Whilst Melanie and I sit on our front porch enjoying a glass of wine and watching the sunset, we often see Chuchi busy in his garden.

Before his evening meal, in the cooler afternoon air, he cuts a single piece of wood from a tree trunk. With several brief pauses for rest, a foot-diameter tree trunk takes him about 15 minutes to saw through. The following morning before breakfast, he chops this single piece into five or six logs. These are stacked neatly in his open-sided wood store, shielded from the elements by a red terracotta roof. This daily routine continues throughout spring.

The couple’s working day changes with the seasons. In late winter I often see him walking up the lane pushing his empty wheelbarrow and carrying a scythe. He returns an hour later. The barrow will be stacked so high with gorse he can hardly push it and needs the lane-side verge to direct him home. The gorse prevents frost damage to early-planted vegetables and is later turned into the earth to provide a natural fertilizer.

If it’s not gorse he’s pushing it’s mimosa canes, or sticks to be used as kindling. In early spring we’ll see him perched precariously up a ladder pruning his fruit trees, or balancing on his boundary wall, stretching to trim the most awkward branches. Everyday come rain or shine he’s in the garden, busy with one thing or another.

Chuchi doesn’t own a car. Once a week, he and his wife walk past our house on their way to the parish village of Sober to buy their weekly provisions. Although it’s only a 3 kilometre walk, the last kilometre is very steep. The poorly surfaced lane winds its way up the hillside. Within two hours they’re returning, each grasping a handle of their heavily laden shopping bag as it swings between them.

Despite their busy lives they both have time to stop and chat. Chuchi is always willing to give helpful advice on grape vine husbandry and if anyone in the village should ask for his help, he’s more than willing to give it.

They have an uncomplicated yet hard working life, and long may it continue.

I almost forgot to mention, this year Chuchi will be 86 years young and Teresa 84.

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Copyright © 2006 Craig Briggs


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