Folklorists say that the belief that good or bad things come in threes is an ancient superstition. There is the nursery rhyme .. “One, two, three, mother caught a flee”… And the saying… “Third time lucky”.
It remains a modern belief. So is it a coincidence that three years ago my partner and I decided to follow the sun? From the freezer to the frying pan so to speak, because we came from The Yukon, “The Great White North” of Canada, where in the winter, temperatures can dip to – 40° with snow-capped mountains as far as the eye can see. Where there was a stillness in the air and the snow blew like powder in the wind. It was so cold that fine crystals rain down like magic dust!
Yet, circumstances and a bit of the wanderlust found us selling our belongings and with two suitcases we were flying high, destination Jerez de la Fontera, España. Jerez, which means “Sherry” in Spanish, is famous for three things – Sherry, Flamenco and Horses.
And, since arriving in Jerez de la Frontera, in September of 2013, we have moved three times ( pardon me if I sound repetitious ) but here I now sit in the middle of a rural area on the outskirts of Jerez and this is definitely ‘third time lucky’. We are but an eight minute drive from the centre of town ( or a rather tricky 45 minutes on foot ), two women in our mid-sixties, living the country life with our three rescue cats. Yes, we have found our Shangri-La!
I had always imagined living on a farm with lots of animals. The usual, you know, chickens, goats, pigs and so on and we have all of the above, just not exactly belonging to us. The neighbours to our right own quite a grand campo, they have peacocks and chickens all roaming free. It is not unusual to find the peacocks and their three hens tip toeing down the path as they did last year, sneaking under the fence and checking out their new neighbours. The family on our right have a vineyard and a mini Bodega and to our delight we were invited to help with their harvesting and pressing of the grapes.
Our first summer was spent getting to know both sets of neighbours and enjoying the sounds of the countryside. Hens and roosters call back and forth, they would start even before the light of day. Then the birds would start chirping, donkeys braying and, by golly, ‘Old MacDonalds farm’ is alive and well! There is never a time when there is the sound of silence, just when you think the animals have had enough, a dog starts to bark and, low and behold, they are off again.
It is our good fortune that Ana, one of three daughters of our vineyard neighbour, speaks more English than we do Spanish and has been a great help and resource for us. She laughed at my first attempt to grow vegetables especially when I let the caterpillars eat all our cabbage or when I would proudly show her new shoots that would sprout up in the garden.
“Lelly, those are weeds!” She said.
“But Anna,” I would say, “they are pretty.” Then she would mutter something in Spanish and shake her head.
To say I was a little despondent is an understatement. I tried in vain to till the land to grow veggies but spent most of the time watering the earth and watching weeds grow. But, slowly, little flowers started to bloom, young trees that we planted were bearing more leaves and there was a change taking place.
Our lovely elderly neighbour next door who watches me with great amusement was now coming to the fence and saying .. “Muy bonito, Senora“.
“Muchas Gracias” I would reply, one of the few Spanish phrases I was fluent in. “Es un trabajo duro.” (‘It is hard work’) and so the conversation would continue with me helplessly nodding and agreeing. Sign language is great.
We have another very special visitor and I leave him to the last. We call him ‘Our Resident Owl’ and he too came to check us out.
Just as darkness settled and the sky changed to an orange glow, with a hoot and a toot he appears, perching on the electricity pole to quietly observe us from every angle. Then, as silently as he came, we would see his magnificent grey shadow disappear into the night. Lately he has visited his perch less frequently, although we hear him in the trees. When he hoots , I hoot back and with a whoosh he is off ‘to a land where the Bong-Tree grows’. Our pussy cats are startled.
So we have, as they say, ‘arrived’. From high rises and city scapes, to larger than life mountain ranges and mysterious auroras borealis. From the cobbled streets of a Spanish town, tapas bars and flamenco music, to a bumpy dirt road that leads far from the madding crowd to a life neither of us could have imagined. We often sing .. “Our house is a very, very fine house, with three cats in the yard and cocks that crow all night .. ” well, you get the picture, I hope.
There is much to tell about our experiences. Our encounter with The Goat Man, finding our three rescue cats, harvesting of grapes, lovely visits with friends who bring us seedlings to plant and lively conversations round the fire. Oh, talking about fires….. but that’s another story. Got to go now, seeds to plant, animals to talk to and miles to go before I sleep. Ah… country living is good for the soul.
Mi encanta mi vida.