“The gas has gone,” I scream. I’m half way through my shower. The hot water fades over seconds, becoming lute warm. My hair is soaking and I am cold.
Paul goes to change the gas. He lights the incendiary device and the light goes on, them fades to nothing.
“Oh, bugger,” he exclaims. He changes the butane bottle. Match struck he lights the boiler. The flame flickers then dies. He tries again, then again, then again...... He checks the bottle; it’s connected correctly.
I shiver. My body is as blue as Paul’s language. My wet hair hangs lankly over my face. I’m not a happy bunny.
“There’s a problem,” Paul says, a box of matches later. That’s putting it mildly, I think as I rinse myself as best I can and towel myself dry. I boil a kettle of water so I can rinse my hair thoroughly. South Pacific comes to mind. Under my breath I sing that I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair.
“I think we need a man to look at it,” Paul continues. I agree, but say nothing.
A while later I suggest he goes to ask Antonio if he knows who we can call. Wouldn’t you know, it’s pouring with rain? That summed the morning up, as far as I was concerned. Paul grabs the umbrella and saunters the fifty yards along the track to our neighbour’s house. I watch as he is invited in. I’ll not see him again for an hour. They’ll have a coffee and a liqueur or two before they even get talking. I’m use to that by now. It’s the way it is here in rural Asturias. But not this morning; five minutes later I see the two men wandering back to our house. Antonio can’t light the boiler. Hey ho, if Antonio can’t light it then we do have a problem!
“Jose Luis in Trevias,” Antonio says in Spanish. Locally no one speaks English so we have to speak Spanish. That’s the best way to learn.
We all nod. Jose Luis, seemingly, is the answer to all electric and gas problems.
“We’ll go to Trevias now,” our neighbour tells us, adding that we’ll also have coffee there too.
We’re in our working clothes and Umi, his wife, tells us that is no problem. We go in Antonio’s ‘village’ car. It’s a twenty five year old Peugeot he uses as a run around. The upholstery has seen better days but is still comfy. In the back there is a rusting knife on the floor, a few aged peas and wood shavings.
“Ah, that is why it’s ok to go as we are,” I say to myself. That is why he uses this car for driving the bumpy rural lanes as he checks on his land. During those rustic travels he’ll collect a host of vegetation; either for replanting or for Umi’s culinary delights. His brand new Peugeot 405 sits in the garage ready for their weekend trips back to Gijon and life in the city.
We traverse the seventeen curves along the two kilometre road into Brieves and join the Trevias road. The twenty five year old engine purrs like a kitten. Fifteen minutes later we are parked on the yellow lines outside Jose Luis. Antonio puts the hazard lights on. In Trevias you can park anywhere you like as long as you use the hazards. You can park on crossings, corners as well as double or triple park outside the bank or supermarket. No one cares, not even the Guadia.
Umi takes us into the shop. Problem given, solution received. A man will come on Monday or Tuesday. Sorted.
“Are we in a hurry?” our neighbours ask. We shake our heads. They need to go and see a man in a nearby village. As we have never heard of the village, let alone visited it then we are happy to ride along. We turn off the Cadavedo road and drive along a narrow lane that winds up into the hills. We stop at a pueblo of some four houses. Each is a soft pastel colour and geraniums blossom on the windowsills. Chickens prance amongst the dilapidated farm equipment, squawking as they go. Smoke belches from the chimneys indicating the women are at work in the kitchens. Here, that is their place. The pop pop of a tractor from somewhere in the woodlands tell us the men folk are hard at work. Aran lilies bloom in a sea of thick mud. Antonio calls and am aged, walnut skinned gent appears from behind a pile of wood, axe in hand. They chat in rapid colloquial Bable. Paul and I delight in the view out over Trevias and San Feliz. We point as we pick out landmarks. The sun is shining by then; its rays bounce off the windows of the houses scattered over the valley below. Umi is busy sorting through the shrubbery in search of cuttings she wants to add to her own flower garden. Antonio reappears with a pair of shears which apparently are the object of our visit. He cuts the few pickings that Umi has chosen and the car boot is full.
We climb back into the car.
“Cafe ahora,” Antonio states. We nod. Coffee now seems a good idea. He drives back down the curving lane and into Trevias. There are many bars in Trevias but the hub of the town always seems to be Bar Esva, named after the river of the same name that flows by the town. The Rio Esva, I have learnt, is home to the largest otter community in Europe. A few weeks earlier, just to prove a point, an otter strutted across the road. He lingered just long enough for us to admire his elegant blue-grey pelt. Why should he rush? He has no reason too. He is in command; this is his territory.
We sit at a table with our coffee and pinchos. We chatter ten to the dozen. I’d forgotten my dictionary but that didn’t seem to matter. If I didn’t know the words for what I wanted to say I thought of others I could use instead. It worked for me. Coffee finished. Time to go? No. It was time for a glass of wine and so the conversation flowed some more. A group of old men with faces as withered as carob beans sat at the next table; its top covered by a green baize cloth. Their leathery hands shuffled and dealt tatty, gaudily decorated pictorial playing cards with the experience of a Park Lane card sharp. The constant flow of coffee ‘cortado’ greased their razor like tongues that quarrelled furiously over any suspected cheating that would rob them of their valued counters; the final amount would pronounce the winner.
We have seen this game played in the bars all over Spain but have never been able to figure out the rules. We often said we didn’t think there were any. We asked Antonio if he played but he shook his head. He knew how to play though. One day we may learn the complexities of the game. There is that phrase again – ‘one day’! One day is a long time away.
We sip the last of our wine. “Vamos,” says Antonio. We go.