Swallows And Artichokes

Soon the cloudless Andalucían sky was teeming with swallows. Their fork tailed silhouettes swooping and darting across the brilliant azure. Beneath their flight path, Primavera had been busy spreading her verdant cloak across the landscape; valleys and hills now shimmered in a haze of sap. Winter’s jaded tones replaced by the fresh, youthful complexion of spring.



Hoopoes with their funny spiked headgear, called out from the groves ‘hoop, hoop, hoop, hoop’ and then the unmistakable sound of the first cuckoo. But not everyone was happy. A pair of swallows arrived two weeks later than the rest. They’d come back to the house to nest. For six years the place had lain empty and open doors and windows had provided them with carte blanche for nest building. Now we had moved in and their access was denied.




After a day of making clear to us their disgust, they finally decided to start building a new nest outside by the kitchen. I watched in fascination as little by little their nest made from small amounts of mud that they brought back from a nearby stream began to take shape. In just under two weeks they managed to construct a brand new home. Mr. and Mrs. Swallow then had a couple of days rest before Mrs Swallow got down to the serious business of egg laying.




Cherry blossom now covered the hillsides but the almond blossom had long gone. In its place sweet almonds, wrapped snuggly in velvet coats hung in clusters from the branches. Along the lanes clumps of artichokes grew and out in the groves I’d noticed people picking wild asparagus. Envious of the large bunches that they came back with, I decided to look for some myself. After over an hour of searching I managed to find only five stems. When Paco heard about my pathetic attempt, he took pity on me and the next day delivered round a huge bunch that he’d picked that morning.





It was not just asparagus and artichokes that I discovered growing wild in the campo. There were many wild flowers that I’d not seen before. As I walked with Colin Snout along the paths, golden broom filled the air with its honeyed scent and poppies danced in the breeze by the wayside. Springtime in Andalucía is a sight to behold.




In the village there was a lot of work going on. While the men were out in the olive groves pruning the trees and cutting up logs, the women were busy whitewashing their houses. I couldn’t understand why there was suddenly this great flurry of activity? ‘Fiesta, Lottie, Fiesta!’ Antonia explained. It was nearly the end of April and the first of the three May fiesta’s was a week away. Irishman and I realized that we needed to step up to the mark and show that we too had civic pride. We bought a large tub of white paint and spent two days painting the front of the house, the garage and the blue railings outside. I planted up some pots with flowers and swept the yard. Judging from the compliments on our hard work and the beaming smiles, we’d clearly done the right thing.