Bread and thanks

oil-1OLIVE 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 . . .

The grandfather’s face is a picture of pride and contentment. He breaks the bread carefully, dips chunks under the tap, and hands them to his children and grandchildren. Much noise and exclamations of pleasure as the bread and oil is consumed. The family is united in appreciation of the fresh, fresh oil and overjoyed at the culmination of another year’s work.

The grandfather isn’t finished. He breaks more bread and dips it under the tap. He hands pieces to everyone in the mill, his eyes glistening, weather-worn face broken by deep lines of delight. He says something to me as he hands me my bread and oil. All I hear is a guttural stream of Andalucian Spanish punctuated by gravelly laughter. I nod and say gracias, and he laughs again.

Haven’t a clue what he said. “This is my body, which is given for you,” would have been appropriate. I have been struck by the imagery and warmed by the old man’s gesture.

Fiona unloads her sacks of olives
Fiona unloads her sacks of olives
Bruce and Fiona tipping olives into the hopper
Bruce and Fiona tipping olives into the hopper
Monster masher
Monster masher
End of the process
Bruce filling containers at the end of the process

Two hours later, our olives have been milled and our oil decanted into 25-litre containers. We load them into my old campervan in the freezing darkness engulfing the mill. Snow gleams on the summits of the Sierra Nevada. Stars shine in a Christmas sky. The work is done. The year is over in more ways than one.


18 thoughts on “Bread and thanks

  1. Wow!! wonderful stuff Alen. Sure beats the hell out of digging spuds from out of the mud at the bottom of the garden and anointing the youngest with a freshly fried chip……

    Hope that your Andalusian Christmas was heavenly and your New Year brings even more happiness.

    all the best,



  2. So does this mean it’s olive oil with everything in 2017? Olive oil fritters, chips and olive oil, olive oil soup? You have to get yourself a market stall now and become one of those traders shouting prices and spinning the corners of tangerine-filled brown paper bags.


    1. I can do that. There is a bit of a dormant Del Boy inside everyone, apparently.
      Interestingly, olive oil soup isn’t that far from reality. I read somewhere that gazpacho, when it was a mere peasants’ soup in the days before it was made posh with tomatoes and cucumber, was just water, olive oil and a bit of garlic for flavouring. It was eaten (or drunk) warm in the morning, cold at lunchtime in the fields, and warm again in the evening. Those were the days.
      Cheers, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Alen Was there a problem with sending your blog? I seemed to miss some of them. Password tip : I use ” incorrect” as mine.If I forget it I put in gibberish and the iPad says ‘yure password is incorrect’ Simple.More madness to follow. Pip pip. Peter Savile still etc.


    1. Hi Peter. A couple of weeks ago I published some test posts and then deleted them, not taking into account that people would be notified. So if you received word of a post and then couldn’t find it, that was my fault for not getting my head around the technology. One or two people have mentioned it. Hope the mother-in-law wasn’t roused to anger.
      Thanks for the password tip. I shall bear that in mind.
      All the best, Alen


    1. Hi Dave. The sky is blue but we have snow on the hills and frost nearly every morning. I thought my days of scraping frost of the van windscreen were over – alas, no. Having said that, I’m not complaining. I’ll send you a postcard of sunny skies and a donkey.
      Happy new year, Alen


  4. Hi Alen, have you had snow? I saw a report that there was snow in Benidorm. I know you don’t live there but just thought further inland would be worse. Hope you are not worried by the news as the Tory party are intent on destroying our country at the moment. Teresa is going to make us more global. As someone pointed out how does losing citizenship in 27 countries make me more global.


    1. Hi Greg. Yes, there is snow on all the mountains and we drove through a blizzard this morning. Well, not so much a blizzard, more of a severe flurry. I’ve got some spuds growing in a container and the frost has snurped the leaves. Couldn’t believe it. Twenty years of growing spuds without losing hardly any, then I plant some in Spain and the frost wipes them out.
      I’ve reached the conclusion that everything the Tory party does is to make them electable so they can hang onto power. If that means fatally undermining the prospects of the country with the sole aim of reducing immigration to win votes, then so be it. There is nothing they will not stoop to. You just have to see their stupid grins at PMQs to realise they don’t give a damn about anything except being in control. But I see Trump’s just dealt them a blow in his inauguration speech – America first in everything including trade. So much for Teresa being first in the queue. Bloody hell, you’ve got me going now. I was just enjoying a quiet glass of wine.
      All the best, Alen


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