I ONCE worked with two old boys called Carl and Jimmy. They weren’t old really, they just seemed old at the time. It was the early 1980s and I’d be in my late twenties, they in their early forties. Early forties isn’t old, unless you happen to be observing things from the viewpoint of someone twelve years younger . . . Continue reading Passing clouds
PETROL strimmer lying on the ground. Choke turned on. Fuel turned on. I pull the cord once, twice, and on the third pull the engine barks into life. I increase the revs. But instead of a continuous, single-cylinder whine I hear a dull chug-chug indicating something is coiled around the cutting head. A piece of wire, brambles, end of a washing line, something like that. I flick the switch to cut the power. A ball of grey, black and silver unravels from the cutting head as the engine stops. It’s a snake . . . Continue reading The snake
LIKE a bud bursting on a winter twig, a strange word has sprung from dormancy and entered my lexicon: drupe. You may have been familiar with this word since childhood, even knowingly engaged in plucking a variety of drupes from trees. But it’s a new word for me. Almonds aren’t nuts – they are drupes, I have discovered. I can’t say my world has been shattered by this revelation, but its axis has shifted a couple of degrees . . . Continue reading A drupe in every bite
A CYCLE is developing. At the heart of this new life a structure takes shape like crystals forming in solution. December is the olive harvesting and pressing month, January the pruning and burning month. Work must be finished before the blossom comes. The seasons are in control. It’s not hard to see why ancient peoples were dependent on the calendar and stars . . . Continue reading Cutting edges . . .
OLIVE HARVEST, DAY 5: An epiphany at the mill. We’ve tipped our sacks of olives into a hopper, and the cumulative weight of Fiona’s, Bruce’s and my produce has topped at 727 kilograms. We’ve hung about for nearly five hours waiting our turn in the milling process. We’ve watched in stoic silence as tonnes of shiny black and green fruits have been mashed in the mashers and spun in the spinners, while our batch edges closer to its fate. Waiting their turn in front of us with about 1.5 tonnes of olives to crush is a large family consisting of the grandfather, six or seven middle-aged sons and daughters – or sons-in-law and daughters-in-law – and a couple of teenage grandchildren. As their golden oil begins to flow from a tap, the grandfather produces a fresh loaf of bread . . . Continue reading Bread and thanks
OLIVE HARVEST, DAY 3: Clothes smell of oil. Arms and legs smell of oil. Hair smells of oil. Oil penetrates the skin and gets under the nails. It soaks the nets, soaks the sacks. It lubricates tool handles and the leather of boots. Crushed olives stain the grass and kitchen floor like trodden beetles. My world has become an olive oil production plant. The full sacks mount up slowly – 11, 12, 13 . . . Continue reading Oil in the blood
OLIVE HARVEST, DAY 1: Not so much a baptism of fire, more an anointment with oil. If that sounds a shade biblical, the route from Jerusalem to Bethany passed over the Mount of Olives – where Jesus preached to his disciples – so olives have been an important crop since biblical times, at least. The only route to pass my olive patch is the track that joins Orgiva to the settlement of El Morreon. No disciples, but three herds of goats and a school bus twice daily . . . Continue reading Amounts of olives