Balancing Act

Adiós Béjar

You know when a small/annoying/disturbing/upsetting thing happens at the beginning of the day and the rest of your day is off? Like, it’s not balanced, it’s just a bit off? Ok maybe it doesn’t happen to you. It happened to me yesterday. Now just so you know, it’s wasn’t a big thing but I’m telling you about it so that I remember. I want to remember this is something my mind can do. I want to notice the off-balance that sometimes happens and just notice it. No need to do anything about it, no need to beat myself up. Nothing. Just notice that I may not be able to recognise the whole truth in this moment as I’m unbalanced. So here’s the story…

Our hero!

Wait, first here’s the end of the story… Our gas (LPG) gauge was in the red and that’s a problem because we need the gas for cooking and heating water and running the fridge. We have an app that tells us where the nearest gas supplier is located and we arrived to see red covers on the pump handles, indicating that they had run out of gas too. And only yesterday I had read something about gas shortages in the UK. Is there a gas shortage here in Spain too? My mind was getting ready to imagine the worst, when what should arrive but a gas tanker. No kidding! And no shortage. Ten minutes later we filled up with enough gas for two weeks. Is it possible that everything works out? Sometimes it takes ten minutes, sometimes longer? And the unbalance? It doesn’t last long either.

City walls in Plasencia

Ok back to the start of the story… We left beautiful Béjar the morning after my tunnel walk full of optimism and drove to the city of Plasencia, less than an hour south. There was a free car park near the centre where motorhomes were welcome. The sun shone and the temperatures were rising. We had hardly turned off the engine when a dishevelled looking guy came banging on the window. Even though we didn’t understand his words it was clear he was looking for money. Denis said no and shook his head and he left. He returned half an hour later and we realised he was going to every arriving vehicle.

Can you see the swallows? They move too fast for me but I’ve circled them above. Have the swallows arrived in Ireland yet? These ones seem to be getting ready for their journey north…

My mind asked, “is this a dangerous city?” and tipped off balance. Everything else that happened that day was slightly off. It was too hot to go for a walk, there were too many cars, too many bugs, I was hungry, no, I was thirsty, I was fed up. On and on until… We were eating a dinner of cold pie and salad (remember the gas was running out) when a knock came to the door. We both looked at each other… but it was only the owner of the camper next door who had parked so close to us that we couldn’t open the side door. As I’m the one learning Spanish… Denis indicated I should go out the other door to discover what he wanted. I began with “I don’t speak Spanish” in Spanish… turns out that’s not as useful as you might think. If you’re speaking Spanish – badly – the exact meaning is lost on the native speaker but well, you’re speaking Spanish, so they presume you probably understand it, right? I understood nothing and that resulted in the man speaking faster.

Here’s the gap after we moved…

Fortunately, he had a wife who spoke face-language – she saw my face and knew I didn’t know what he was saying. Between the three of us (and Denis looking from the gap in the door) we worked out he was suggesting that if we reversed a bit our door would be parallel with the end of their van and we’d be able to open it. And he was right and it was perfect and as we stood outside smiling and saying Gracias to each other Denis and I noticed we were now surrounded by motorhomes. Literally, surrounded. (Ok no, there was a gap in front of us but there were vans at each side of us and at the back, mostly parking illegally!) And they were still arriving. Smiling, chatting, gesticulating, happy people, parking wherever they could find a gap.

And an even smaller gap behind us…

And it was so odd it unbalanced me right back to balance. They do things differently here. They eat dinner late at 9.30pm or 10pm. They park in the tiniest of spots. They talk loud and fast. And it’s ok. I slept really well that night, all the windows were open and the sounds of fast talking Spanish drifted in. Yes my mind did throw up some safety issues but I took note of the location of our fire extinguisher and I was reassured. And the next morning we had landed in a new world. Everything was good. There was space again in the car park and the temperatures were more pleasant. We found a small bakery beside the city walls and watched the swallows swooping and soaring. And then as you know, just when we needed it the gas tanker arrived.

Coffee time

I remember as a child when we would go to the city with my Dad to some football pitch or greyhound track and if there was a big crowd there were men who used to help you park and then take care of your car. Everyone gave them a few coins but I always worried that there were so many cars they would forget which one was ours and it would be gone when we got back. It was never gone. My Dad called them the Lock Hards because they used to repeat “lock hard, lock hard” while helping you parallel park into a tight space. The Spanish motorhome drivers are experts at parking in a tight spot. Had a 50 year old memory unbalanced my mind? Was I just recycling one familiar situation and glueing it to this city with my childhood feeling of worry? I don’t know.

Noticing seems like doing nothing but it’s not and there’s nothing better to do when you’ve tipped off balance.