Under the Black Poplars
Saturday, 16 August 2014
I'm sitting in the shade under the black poplars, Los Alamos as they are known in Castellano. There will doubtless be a hundred local names for a hundred different localities, when referring to these tall and sheltering trees. Say Los Alamos to a Baby Boomer and they are likely to think of mushroom clouds and 'Duck and Cover'. I think about these things: perhaps I shouldn't. How close were we over those 50 or so years of La Guerra Fria? Was Cuba as close as all that? It turns out the ICBMs weren't quite as good as Intelligence said. I should know, I was 'in intelligence.' I did a boring job and I'm not sure how well I did it now, with hindsight.
These black poplars are on a campsite in rural spain. In a Parque Natural: I might see wild boar when I walk the dogs tomorrow morning. Sometimes, it's hard to imagine getting here. Berlin, Booze and Barfly antics: living in a Bukowski novel before I'd ever heard of him. Ten years of that and then it was Cyprus, the Middle East and just about anywhere you'd care to name. A travel writer without a pen or the slightest clue. The hardest thing to believe is that I'm still alive. I've pinned money on a Greek bride's wedding dress, without knowing a soul in the restaurant. I've seen the sunrise in more countries than I can remember the name of.
I remember a friend buying a painting in a gallery under the Karlovy Bridge in Prague. We drank complimentary wines in six or so before he succumbed. Maybe he still has the painting.
Some things I don't remember: people tell me about them and – secretly – I imagine that they happened to someone else. It feels like it sometimes.
It's 5.15 local time. The camp-site is quiet-ish. Spanish people do nothing quietly. Or – if you prefer – Spanish people do nothing noisily. Think about it. In a while, I'm going walk down to the bar and order some obscure part of the pig to take away and enjoy it with a bottle of wine.
I don't really know how I got here, but I'm glad I did.
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