19. Feb, 2017

And finally ....

Well, here it is. This is, I promise, the very last of my tales of woe. It´s not that I haven´t done anything stupid recently, more a case of it doesn´t bear telling ….. although if I remember, I will tell you about the medicine husband took by mistake the other day. And he says it`s me who`s accident prone!

Search for "campo" in the dictionary and it will tell you it means "field". It does, but it´s one of those lovely fluid Spanish words that is actually used for a lot more than the literal meaning.  "Campo" isn´t quite country, but it´s something close. It means an area that hasn´t been built on. That is basically wild. But not far enough away from the city to be actual countryside. It´s scrub, but more than scrub. Our particular patch of campo is a long strip perhaps a kilometer wide that falls over the hill on both sides. On one side, the sea rolls in the distance. On the other, there is village. If you take a deep breath and navigate your way between long-collapsed stone walls that once, many years ago, marked cultivated terraces, and climb the hill to the very top, the 360° views are breathtaking - if you have any breath to take away in the first place. That hill is steep!

But it´s worth the climb. On both sides are wild lavender and rosemary bushes, together with sprawling carob and olive trees and rock rose bushes - in England, I used to grow rock roses in my garden. There, they were ankle height. Here, they tower thigh-high. The smells from the herbs mingle with the sea-salt. Even to my limited sense of smell, it´s glorious. It drives Oscar mad; he literally doesn´t know which way to turn for the sensory overdrive.

But on this occasion, I couldn´t blame Oscar for my mishap. No, it was my feet. We were just starting on the long climb to the top of the hill when I turned my ankle on a patch of loose scree. I tottered for a moment, arms wind milling as I fought for balance and then my ankles and feet gave up the unequal struggle and I toppled over.  Head first into a vigorous olive tree.

The olives you see in groves and gardens here are a joy to behold. After a year or two (and these trees equal yews in their ability to live for centuries; they survive drought and sun and even the floods we sometimes get after downfalls of rain; the only thing that kills them is frost, and there hasn´t been a frost around here in living memory) they grow straight and true, with characterful gnarled trunks and spreading branches that give much-needed shade to many gardens. And of course, large crops of wonderful olives. As an aside, if you are thinking of planting an olive tree in your garden over here, in anticipation of wonderful crops of olives to eat or press for the oil, be warned! You can´t simply pluck olives off the tree and eat them. The only living creature I know who does that is a friend´s dog.  He eats them happily, and then throws up an hour afterwards. If you have ever tried to eat a raw olive, you would know why! They are mouth-puckeringly bitter, and need extensive soaking in caustic soda or lye and then many, many rinses before they can be bottled in either brine or oil for use. No point in dreaming of pouring your own extra-virgin green gold over your salad, either.  If you squash your own olives at home, you get a squishy mess.  You can take them - if you have enough to make it worthwhile - to the factory to get them professionally pressed, but as it costs far more to do this than to buy extra virgin oil from the supermarket, nobody bothers.


But I digress. To return to the story of my headlong bolt into an olive tree. This tree was nothing like the handsome specimen you may have in your garden. This tree had inhabited the campo for many, many years and was tall and strong and vigorous. And in common with most wild olives, it had an abundant growth of whippy shoots, rising from the very base of the tree to tower slightly taller than I am. The overall effect was of a church candle of a trunk rising from many cupped hands of suckers.  Very pretty, unless you had the misfortune to be tangled in it.

Which I was.

If it hadn´t been for the shoots, I´m sure I would have been able to use the gnarled and nobbly trunk to haul myself upright.  As it was, the pliable suckers grabbed me by the neck and the arms. The more I struggled, the harder they held me. After a few minutes, I was literally nose to tree trunk. I had a minute of sheer panic; what if I couldn´t get loose? How long would it be before a fellow dog walker came to my aid? No use thinking of Husband; he had no idea where I had gone.  Finally, I pulled myself together and tried getting loose very slowly and very gently, pushing a shoot aside with my finger tips and gaining an exit millimeter by millimeter. It took me ages, but I was finally triumphant, sitting on a patch of what I suddenly realized was very hard gravel. I did get revenge on those suckers; I grabbed a handful and used them to haul myself to my feet.  That showed them!

Unfortunately, I quickly realized that it was not just my long-suffering knees that had taken a bashing this time. Not only did knees and hands hurt like hell, but the front of my t-shirt was a sheet of blood.  I was bewildered, and for ages simply stood, patting myself down in search of some grave wound.  It was only when I tried to talk to Oscar and found that my entire mouth was numb and unresponsive that I realized what the problem was.

In diving into the olive, I had obviously hit my face on the tree trunk and had actually managed to bite straight through my lower lip. It was totally unfeeling, and bleeding profusely. 

I was so unnerved I never even thought about using the ´phone, which was still in my pocket. My sun hat and sun glasses fared less well; it wasn´t until much later that I realized I had left both of them behind somewhere. I never did find them.

Husband shrieked when he saw me. I mumbled an explanation about the tree and he bathed my face for me.  Now that did hurt.

"Your lip needs stitching." He insisted. "It´s a real mess."

I shook my head. It would heal in its own good time. It didn´t, of course. About ten days later when it was still so painful I could barely eat or drink, and my mouth looked as if I had taken a punch from a heavyweight boxer, I gave in and went to the doctor.  Who told me off severely for not going to see him in the first place and agreed with my husband; it had, most definitely, needed stitching. But now it was too late and I would just have to let it heal in its own good time. Oh, and by the way, when did I last have a tetanus shot?

Not quite as bad as the burst lip but just as startling was the bruise I acquired on my upper arm.  Fair enough, I do bruise very easily but this was the biggest, blackest bruise I have ever had. It covered the whole of my arm from shoulder to elbow, and was so impressive that I got tired of people asking me if I had acquired a tattoo?  It got even worse as it faded to a bilious yellowy-green. 

Given the state of my injuries, I tried to make a joke of it by telling anybody who asked that Husband had taken to beating me into submission, but oddly enough nobody believed me.  One or two suggested I needed to take more water with it, but it probably says a lot for my reputation of being unsteady on my feet that everybody simply nodded understandingly when I finally explained about my encounter with the tree….

And speaking of my long-suffering husband, it has to be said that he is no mean contender himself when it comes to the accident prone stakes. He once fell off a ladder, bounced off the corner of our oak dining room table and hit his head on the stone fireplace.  That might not sound too bad, until you realize that the reason he fell off the ladder in the first place was because he over-reached himself stretching to paint the highest corner of our living room.  And the living room ceiling is nearly five metres from the floor.  Fortunately, he is well padded and has an extremely hard head, so took very little damage.

 Have a lovely Sunday!