Out of place, out of time

Out of place, out of time

We were in Almeria again yesterday, picking up my daughter, Natasha, from the airport there. It’s a shiny new airport where very little happens. Yesterday five arrivals and, I suppose, about the same number of departures, was the total air traffic activity for the day. The mind boggles at the economics of this enterprise: perhaps it’s busier in the summer; maybe there are cargo flights I didn’t see.  But still, it’s a puzzle.

I was in the passenger seat for the journey back along the A7.  Ample views and time to let the mind wander. There’s plenty to see besides distant sierras and those unbecoming ranks of polythene. Dotted here and there are remnants of buildings long abandoned.  They remind me of the Cortijada del Moro (loosely translated as Moorish farmstead) that we pass on one of our favourite walks in the area.  This tiny, graceful but crumbling cluster of ruins lies in a small canyon where water must once have flowed to sustain the community, its crops and livestock. Similar in style, made from the same stone with its distinctive dilapidation, the roadside ruins could be a few hundred years old – the Moors were expelled in the second half of the 16th century though many communities stayed on for a while.

As we drove along the motorway I looked east towards the Sierra de Filabres, the last bit of high ground before the sea.  Here, at the edge of the valley before the ground rises, are massive tunnels and raised track cutting a swathe through the landscape. This is the infrastructure for Spain’s high-speed trains, the AVE (Alta Velocidad España), when/if they materialise in this part of the country. For now, there are no rails and, thus, no trains. But the impression of progress and modernity is imprinted on this stark, bare, landscape by the A7 and the AVE and was fresh in my mind from my visit to the glossy new airport.

Then my eye was drawn to the near distance. A herd of goats, forty at a guess, clustered around one of those stone ruins a few dozen yards from the roadside. The goats glistened brown or black with flashes of white as they were gathered there by the goatherd for some purpose or other – to milk them perhaps or take them to some new grazing.

For a while I wondered what was more out of place: the A7 and the AVE or the goatherd with his animals.  The former are like grand gestures grafted onto the landscape. The latter, so in keeping with this terrain, you might not even notice them except to register the incongruity of a scene from centuries ago played out against a backdrop of 21st century transportation technology. The one out of place, the other out of time.

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