Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Bonfires

We used to have a number of pine trees in the fields around the house. They were planted originally by my father about forty years ago. He was a keen tree-planter, he said, because there weren’t any in this part of Spain. Trees, that is. Or planters, come to think of it.
He would drive up to the village fountain with several large plastic bottles that started out life holding industrial chemicals (for the swimming pool – the water came by truck). Fill them up then lug them out of the old Renault and over to the seedlings. In the end, there were about 500 trees, almost all pine, and quite a few of them festooned with a type of disagreeable caterpillar which regularly makes its presence in the pages of the ex-pat press. More because of its rash-inducing hairs and its processionary characteristics that anything it might do to the unfortunate pine tree.
A brush fire in the high hills of next-door Turre a couple of summers ago was improperly put out and a second fire duly caught a week later and rushed down the hill, across the valley and into our municipality, burning, among other far more important things, our five hundred pine trees, along with their resident caterpillars as well.
So, two winters on, the trees are dead and dried up, ready for some attention. They fall like skittles in the wind, their roots rotted away. I have a hand saw and have been pruning away at the smaller trees as and when the house needed firewood, but now, with the trees falling in any direction, crushing whatever is underneath, some friends have come by with chainsaws: some wood for them, some for us.
For the past three days, I’ve been burning the remains of the forest – the small branches, fir cones and other detritus – in some large bonfires. Here, you should get your burning permission first, unless you intend to have a good brush-fire and burn down the neighbourhood (don’t get caught – an Englishman in Granada recently cooked half the province and got fined ten million euros).
In the old days, you went to get a licence from the local police, but now, a special fellow from the department of the environment shows up twice a week (although not on any set days, unfortunately) to give out exactly the same permit. Several of us were waiting for him last Monday. Our policeman phoned to ask where he was. He said he couldn’t get a car to come in that day.
So, I’m using an old permit. It’s not as if anyone is going to check.

No comments: