The burning ground

100_3137EVERY 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.

100_3142 100_3146 100_3155IMG_0011I 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?


26 thoughts on “The burning ground

  1. Hi Alen,

    Really good read and your photographs show the exact extent of the burning and the smoke hanging in the valleys.

    As mentioned before we live on the outskirts of Carataunas, looking directly into the Sierra Lujar and some days it is cut in half by the layer of smoke. Funny thing happened last Sunday as I was driving to Lanjoran for water, I met a good few cyclists on the road which in itself is not unusual but seeing them all wearing masks due to the smoke hanging about did put a smile on my face.

    Hope all goes well with the new house and I look forward to reading about your allotment.
    All the best,Alen


    1. Hi John. I saw a couple of cyclists with scarves on their faces the other day but it didn’t occur to me that it was because of the smoke. Now you mention it, it’s pretty obvious. We get almost smoked out here on some mornings.
      The house move’s drawing near. Another three weeks or so. The past few months have been sooooooo stressful.
      Cheers, Alen


  2. Hey, get your wine out now, I started a couple of fires this afternoon when I went out with my leaflets but at least I got them thinking. Oh yes dear friend. Great blog x


    1. Hi Alastair. By pure coincidence I joined the Facebook group “Mines and quarries of the Lake District” this morning and spotted your picture among the members. You haven’t changed a single bit in all these years. Must be that pure Scottish air!
      All the best, Alen


      1. There’s also the South west Scotland Mines Research Society, if you’re interested. I think that photo was taken in 2007 or so. I must get a new one.


  3. Wine in a tin cup … lovely phrase. Makes me want to light a bonfire and crack a bottle AT ONCE in its honour. Unfortunately here it’s p ing down, so real life trumps literature. Again.


    1. Sorry to hear about the weather, Mrs Potter. I don’t suppose it would be any consolation if I said we could do with a shower here. I shall raise a tin cup to you.
      Cheers, Alen


  4. I have to admit to never having burnt anything in or from my garden – I just put it all back on to rot down.

    And our weather really is dire here – the worst floods in the valley we’ve seen for years!


    1. That’s an interesting thought, Steve. Lots of old houses have their own clay ovens in these parts. And, interestingly, the chap we are buying the house off has a bakery. I shall think about that one.
      Cheers, Alen


    1. There might well be something in the small print but it’s all in Spanish. I’m not very good at that yet but I can count up to a hundred – which might be handy if I get involved in a game of hide and seek.
      Cheers, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Alen. The least important first: I once had the great pleasure of being invited for breakfast by an elderly English woman and I mean elderly.
    It all started really nicely at 9 o’clock at her hotel in the restaurant. When I left her three hours later, I could barely walk … she didn’t think I should go before I had a few drinks.
    The lady didn’t seem to be affected at all, that means what I can remember.
    Alcohol’s impact is big early in the day 😯

    Thinking about wine in your tin-cup: When did you published your post 🙂 🙂

    And now to the important comment after my guest appearance on your blog.

    You are a lucky man to have experienced and cared for so many fires and now the world is literally open at your feet – you live in the mountains, right?

    Enjoy all the options you have.
    All the best from one who lives in a flat country,


    1. Hi Hanna. Nine in the morning is stretching things a bit too much. I couldn’t cope with that. Perhaps I’m out of practice. It sounds like it didn’t do your elderly lady friend any harm, though. There might be something in it, after all.
      Perhaps lighting fires is one of those man things. There is definitely an art to it, and a huge sense of satisfaction once they are roaring away. I shall coin a phrase; a failed fire is a failed man.
      There are disadvantages to living in a mountainous country – cycling is bloody hard work, for a start. I might have to have a holiday in Denmark.
      All the best, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My best fire, was on a fishing trip in Norway. Up early (I didn’t sleep with my boots on, …well brought up too) and out to the river and collect branches, twigs and leaves.
        Finally, all was left was to enjoy cowboy coffee while the sun rose 🙂


    1. Hi Jo. Yes, we’ve signed up for a house with a bit of land planted with fruit and olive trees. We complete early next month. And that’s when the hard work begins, digging vegetable plots. It’ll probably start raining then.
      Cheers, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

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