Mother's Garden is as green as the Emerald Isle

By Martin Kirby

What does it really mean to live in clover - a care-free life of ease, comfort and financial prosperity? These elude us – ha! - although we are happily knee-deep in the emblem of the distant Emerald Isle. Life is bursting forth in all directions and I burst into song (see other recent out of tune blog). Well, it is always the greatest lift to walk away from the deafening, numbing, cold waterfall of world events and into the shamrock. As I write the strimmer interrupts the wild birds, frogs and cockerels. Helper Andy, from Cornwall, is steaming through the lower vineyard and I sit here at my chaotic desk and gaze out at it in all its new leaf Easter glory. Slowly but discernibly the round-shouldered mint plant in the pot outside my office window is responding to the water I have just given it. The fish are rising in the old washing pool and Joe is kicking his Barcelona football about beneath the buzzing wisteria. Behind the house Maggie and Andy’s partner Tamsin have planted a great swathe with spuds, and another patch has been cleaned and fed with compost and pony muck in readiness for an assortment of other vegetables, while every dawn smoke rises as the never-ending battle with the brambles rolls on. Andy and Tamsin, who were mentioned in dispatches in February, have returned for another dollop of life on the farm and it is good to have them around. I must away up the land on the tractor this afternoon to cut the verdant strips between the top vines, before we begin the great task of pruning the 80 olive trees. No doubt we will be outside watering the garden until night closes in. Behind me, just inside the back door, our coats hang beneath the crowded shelf of teetering hats that so well define this life. We have an endless list of farming, literary, olive oil, holiday cottage, domestic and accountancy tasks that regularly outpace us, not to mention the constant distractions: Like the apparent demise of our washing machine (bang goes another 600 Euros) planning to export olive oil to the land of Maggie’s birth, Canada (gulp), the demise of the currency exchange company that was holding a large lump of our money (double gulp), and the arrival of Lucky the chicken. I say “apparent demise” of Daphne our Daewoo washing mashing because – ahem - I took her apart, put her back together again and she worked. Total fluke, of course, but we were desperate not to lose her. After 10 years of coping not only with our needs but the holiday cottage washing too, Daphne has every right to throw out the towel. But she is a great rarity – a dual feed washing machine, and a large capacity one at that. Anyone with me on this? While solar water heating has become popular it seems washing machines with a hot water feed have all but disappeared. I just don’t get it. On the financial front we are sending, free of charge, a bottle of olive oil to a chemist in London. When the London currency trading company that has for the past four years converted Sterling into Euros for us suddenly stopped answering the telephone or my increasingly frantic emails I went pale. We needed the hard-earned funds in our Spanish bank account to pay our mortgage. What to do? After days of getting nowhere down official channels I put on my frayed journalist’s hat, Google-Earthed and street-viewed the company’s offices, saw there was a chemist’s shop next door, rang him and begging him to go round and bang on the door for me, which he did, bless him. “It is a somewhat unusual request,” I said. “No it isn’t,” he replied. “You’re the third person to ask me.” That told me there must have been thousands of desperate Brits abroad in the same boat, or at least a handful of dog-with-a-bone ex-journalists scattered around the globe. I am much relieved to report that the money was recovered, but the salient point remains for all would-be ex-pats – you are going to have to become international money traders with one eye forever on the currently woeful exchange rate while the other eye scans for the best/safest deal. I hadn’t counted on looking at the BBC business pages every day of my Mediterranean existence, but I do.


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