Saturday, 13 March 2010

Daniel & Art


From the time Daniel was a very young child he had a great love for art and music. I am not talking about children’s songs and Dr Seuss. We owned an art museum and used to take him to all of the openings. From the time he could barely talk he found a way of telling you what he liked and how it made him feel. Once at the Madrid airport we were in a waiting room and he told me; that thing made him feel soft. I didn’t know what he was talking about so he showed me. Something I had barely noticed made a big impression on him. It was a large sculpture in the middle of the room, just white and round. You couldn’t tell what it was. As we walked around it you could see that it was two doves curled around each other and it did make you feel very warm and romantic. He noticed all of these things. On a trip to England the girls just wanted to get where we were going but Daniel had to stop and look at all of the manhole covers because they had dragons and horses and all sorts of things carved on them. He also didn’t miss the entrance to any building with a sculpture or carving. His taste in music from before he could talk was also unusual for his age; it ranged from Russian opera to Irish folk songs and a lot in between. He would go through phases where he had to listen to certain songs when he went to bed and he always had certain paintings he wanted in his room. He has maintained his appreciation of art and his taste in music has changed a bit more to fit his age and time period, but he still loves a large variety of music that most people his age have never even heard of.

Old Properties

Things to think about when buying a farm in Spain:
On any old farm the property was measured in ‘fanegas’ – a sort of rule-of-thumb measurement - and every village had a different size ‘fanega’ so the size of one ‘fanega’ in Mojácar was, likely as not, different from that in Turre. Now things are measured in hectares or square meters so it is standardized but the old properties aren’t. This makes it complicated when trying to read an old property deed. Another thing is your boundary. Years ago a farmer might have traded a donkey for an olive tree on their land, the donkey will have long passed on but the olive tree now – at least in theory - belongs to someone else. It depends, of course, on whether somebody wrote it down. We ourselves, for example, have a reasonably clear and evident spread of land, plus, according to an old neighbour, an extra five or ten square metres, not existing on any document, about half a kilometer away. One’s land usually stops at the top of a ‘barranco’, a level of once-arable land supported usually by stones (the dictionary isn’t very helpful) and not at the bottom. As I have mentioned before, if you have an ‘era’, that is, a round threshing place, you should find out if it is yours or communal. Or better still, if anyone thereabouts still owns a donkey. Rights of way and animal paths are another problem. For example, we have a piece of land behind ours that gives the owners the right to pass over our land to get to theirs so we cannot fence it. It is just for the land-owners in this case and not the public but it is evidently something of a nuisance. The water or electric company also may have a special right of way so if you fence the land you must put in a gate wide enough for a vehicle and give them a key. An animal path, called a ‘vía pecuaria’ (or, in Andalucía, ‘una vereda de carne’), is for public use and may go right through the middle of your garden. They may not be used much any more but you may not fence or build or barricade it in any way. No, not even the notary. It is not just open to shepherds or farmers with land on the other side but it is in fact a public footpath.
Get your property surveyed because the piece you were shown might not actually be the piece you are buying, you might be buying the side of a cliff. An old trick usually played on one foreigner by another was to get a ‘papel del Estado’ – a fancy-looking watermarked paper dripping with seals and everything on it from the ‘estanco’ – the government paper, stamp, seal and cigarette shop - for twenty-five pesetas and merrily write your contract on that. If you didn’t know any better it looks pretty damn official. I think now with the notary and lawyers that has pretty much gone out of fashion but a lot of people ended up paying a lot of money for a paper they could have gotten at the ‘estanco’ and then finding out they didn’t own a house. Check who has been paying the taxes for the last ten or so years because they might own the land now.
Most old farm-houses or ‘cortijos’ have been inherited by a number of family relatives sometime along the way, so you need written consent from ALL members of the family in order to buy. Lot of times, there’s someone in Argentina, another in Barcelona, another dead or in prison and there is always one ‘clever’ family member that holds out and winds up still owning a room in the house. It may not seem like a problem if it is an old ruin but once you have remodeled and are living in your new house they can put pigs in their room or try and sell it to you for a vast amount of money now that the property is worth something.
Does your farm come with ‘tandas’ or hours of irrigation water - from springs or the town fountain? If it does you need to know how many hours and what days your land has (it’s usually out of a cycle of ten days), then you go to the spring and change the water-ways to go to your farm and irrigate or fill a ‘deposito’ for use later. This can mean a very early start, depending on the timetable. Many farms have three or more springs that they are entitled to but it is a lot of work to walk down the water channels and move the gates so that the water reaches you. Another thing to find out is if your land is protected archeologically, meaning you can’t under normal circumstances build at all.

The land is registered with the ‘registro’ and also with the ‘catastro’. These two offices are mutually exclusive. The first is the Property Registry - think old bits of curling parchment and lilac ink – and the second is the Tax Register. Often, the property is different in one from the other: the vital one – often as we have seen rather lost in the old pine-tree and the large rock which boundaries with Paco el Loco’s land – is the true record of ownership. An ‘escritura’ or the rather shorter ‘nota simple’ are the receipts of the ownership: copying the salient points from the Register.

A ‘Fanega de tierra’ – after looking it up – has the following distinctions. ‘In Andalucía, equivalent to 6,440 square metres. In Castilla y León, it measures 2,000 square metres. In Madrid it goes up to 3,330m2 and in Albacete, it’s between 5,000 and 6,000m2 of cultivated land, depending'.


Thursday, 11 March 2010

La Vieja Remolona

Today is the day of La Vieja Remolona. It is actually a fiesta from Aragón but for some reason is celebrated here. Even though it is not an official holiday if you don’t go to school or work no one minds. The history of La Vieja goes back a long time to when the children needed a break from the rigours of Lent, getting a sort of day off. The whole family trudges up the mountain and has a picnic which includes special breads and cakes made for the occasion. They have twisted breads with hard boiled egg inside and chicherones (pork rind) I think that they are as bad as they sound but today they sell like hot cakes. The children in Mojácar make a paper doll on a cross and, after the picnic lunch in the campo is over, throw rocks at it. The head is full of candy resembling the Mexican piñata. A lot of young people started the fiesta last night and will carry it through to tomorrow. Any reason to have a fiesta. Like last Sunday was the day of Andalucía, it is an official holiday in Andalucía but because it fell on a Sunday which is already a holiday we had to celebrate it on Monday because it isn’t fair to have a holiday if you don’t get a day off. Don’t forget that after every holiday comes El Día de la Resaca (hang-over day), like La Vieja it is not an official holiday but you don’t get in trouble for not showing up for work or school. Originally the children would go door to door asking for food for the picnic and if they did not get any they would play a nasty trick on the home-owner.
Here’s a song the kids in Aragon sing, threatening those neighbours who won’t give them sweets with a stone through their window (the original ‘trick or treat’):

O viejo remolón
Que no quié comer pan,
Sólo chulleta y huevos
Y chocolate si le dan


The lazy old grand-dad won’t eat any bread; only meat and eggs, and chocolate if you give him any.