EVERY morning a layer of smoke settles above the valley. November is the beginning of the bonfire season, when the regulations preventing the burning of garden and agricultural waste are relaxed as the risk of wildfires recedes . . .
Strict regulations remain in place. A prospective fire-lighter requires a licence from the authorities and burning is allowed only between the hours of 8am and 2pm on any day. Fires must conform to a number of other rules and must never be left unattended.
For a man who has, over the duration of a lifetime, taken a great deal of pleasure from standing around allotment fires, bonfires and garden fires – poking them, stoking them and sometimes choking on them – this bureaucratic interference can seem unwarranted and heavy-handed.
But in a land where stray sparks can – and do – result in raging infernos which swiftly destroy vast areas of countryside, every precaution has to be taken.
I am resigned to the melancholy fact I will never again sit round the embers of a garden fire, sipping wine from a tin cup while the deep shadows of night retreat and advance in the flickering flames. Warmth on a cold cheek as a nocturnal breeze stirs; boots toasting; eyes smarting in smoke; coldness stealing from the vague shapes of trees and the black, black ground – it’s all in the past.
Andalucia is an upside-down world where bonfires are kindled in the first light of dawn and grey plumes filter the sun. Is that too early for wine in a tin cup?