Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It’s the little things in life

The alloy centre that goes inside my 17 215/40 tyre - whatever that means

I’VE BEEN saving up to replace two tyres on the car.  It might sound ridiculous but if your car comes fitted with huge, fat tyres that give you traction like a tank and help your car guzzle petrol you’ll know they don’t come cheap.  For those in the know they’re 17 215/40 tyres.  If that's you, please email me and explain what this means.
Anyway the village taller or garage ordered what I needed and today was the day.  We confabbed.  Or rather I asked and Paco answered. 
“So what’s the plan?  New tyres on the front?"
Paco rubbed his blackened hand across his face.  Amazingly he didn’t get a sooty chin.  The black must be embedded. 
“Naaah.  Best put the new ones on the back to stop it sliding around.”
An enlightened “Ah” from me in reply. 
Paco explained – back tyres on the front, new tyres on the back, old tyres in the bin.  And off he went.
I watched him change the first one and asked him if it was normal these days if someone (like me) couldn’t change their own tyre.
“Yes, especially if you have to do this” he replied as he whacked the jammed back tyre off with a large metal pipe.  Something I don’t carry in the car.  I also saw how he dismantled the alloy drums from the rubber bits and felt old when I discovered that inner tubes had gone the way of the choke and other now-obsolete motoring bits.
Then I wandered off, rather bored, and let them get on with it. 
There’s a bakery two doors down and it was tea time so couldn’t resist taking a look at what was on offer.  I came out clutching a bag full of calories, mainly in the form of small Argentinean meat empanadas or pasties, having made friends with the bakeress (yes, I know but I like the sound of bakeress).  Thought I could tempt the Hockey Star when I got home and of course I’d help him out.
Here in Spain, and no doubt elsewhere, some small shopkeepers aren’t too fussed about the appearance of their businesses or themselves.  I’ve been in quite a few soulless places, too depressing to want to hang around in, even less buy anything.  But this bakery was different.  The affable lady behind the counter knew the neighbourhood customers by name.  She was middle-aged, short and rotund.  Her tightly bunned hair was the canary yellow colour of home dye, but it had been carefully applied and there wasn’t a grey hair in sight.  Her full lips were tidily painted a deep red and her eyebrows pencil-thin.
The shop was warm and clean.  The bread was displayed appetisingly in large bins behind her and every counter was groaning with carefully wrapped cakes, biscuits, pastries, croissants – the lot. To one side of the counter was a large fabric-lined basket full of eggs carefully laid out on a bed of straw.  She’d obviously taken a lot of care to entice buyers to spend. She told me when they baked the empanadas, twice repeating the days they were made – Mondays, Wednesdays and Sunday mornings - because she wanted to make sure I would return.  I will I told her.

Temptation lay all around....

They were still busy back at the taller but an old friend from the children’s nursery school days had shown up with a tyre that had a mysterious slow puncture.  We stood by the row of lame cars and tried to catch up on several years of news. The more we talked the slower Paco worked.  The more we joked, the wider Paco’s smile got. 
“He’s in stitches,” said Regina as Paco went off with another tyre.
 We did kids, education, financial climate, lack of jobs and other local empanada salespoints in a flash.  Menopause, hysterectomies, age, aches and pains and frightening health stories took quite a bit longer.  We women of a certain age seem to be a tad fixated on these things lately.  Can’t think why.  We parted ways, perhaps for another couple of years.
I drove home content.  I’d got my new tyres and a safer car. The Hockey Star wasn’t going to skid round corners any more. My wallet had fainted at bill-paying time but I was looking forward to a glass of tinto and I’d make a toast to the little things in life, may I recognise and enjoy them when they come my way.   And another to all the different people who cross my path every day and make it richer.
Ah, and another to Argentinean empanadas …yum.  Think I'll open another bottle of wine.

Weather today: Cold, overcast with some showers.  Wind has dropped. We appear to be on the path of several low pressure trains again, just like last year.   High 13ºC/55ºF. Low 9ºC/48ºF.   SE 21 km/h. Pressure 1005 mb and dropping. Relative humidity 80%. UV Index 2. Snow above 1,400 m.  

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I’d recognise that face anywhere

FROM time to time in our little village, a desperate pet owner pastes lampposts, walls, in fact anything that doesn’t move, with A4 photocopies of their lost animal.  Usually they’re dogs.  Some offer a small reward, others don’t.  All profess to the family’s love for Fido, and of his delicate health which will suffer without the proper medication.  In fact this last fact is such a recurring one that I’ve decided that either there is a senior-dog napper in our midst or a secret Korean restaurant has opened up with a fistful of clients with a penchant for tough mutt.
I’ve never heard of any of the animals being found, though they could have been.  As the weeks pass the ink on the posters runs in the rain; the paper goes brown in the sun and the wind rips it to shreds until it flaps itself violently off its support.  Interestingly Fido is never worth a colour photocopy.  Just black and white.
Today The American and I took our morning constitutional to pick up the daily newspapers.  A bit of exercise, a chat and a quick bark at the newsagent (a technique I learned off a Yorkshire Terrier a few days ago so it’s still a joke which has The American, The Newsagent and I rolling around rather pathetically).  Overnight a new A4 photocopy had hit our streets but surprisingly this time it is for a lost eagle.  Yes, an eagle.  And the caring owner had even included a photo of his bird.  I studied it for a moment while The American strided ahead (he has long legs).
 “Hey O!”, I shouted.  “Take a look at this”. 
He backtracked.  We looked at the poster.  “Now there’s a face I’d recognise anywhere” I said.  Hoots of laughter.  The joys of sharing the same warped sense of humour.  I thought the outline of an eagle in flight might be more useful.  After all I was hardly going to come face to face with our feathered friend and we have eagles and other indigenous birds of prey flying around these mountains and I don’t think I’m the only one who’d have trouble knowing one from the other. 
We walked on.  I struggled with the ethics of returning our buddy to captivity should he land unsuspectingly on my shoulder.  After all he’d made a successful break for freedom.  Would he be able to feed himself?  The American thought so.  Thought the eagle’s natural instinct would kick in.  I do hope so.  We mused over the situation. 
“Kinda like returning a slave to captivity” said The American after a while.
Fly on feathered friend.  Hope you’re enjoying your new-found freedom.  

Sorry, no weather included today.  TV weather forecast just starting.  Sad I know.