house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

The Last Feat of Senhor Felix

Senhor Felix must have been quite a character, and his farm - the pride of the entire village. Half a hectare of sunny terraces – and he must have had a good go at covering it all in vines, fruit trees and vegetable beds. Older people tell us about it in the local bar, putting on their faraway voices, letting their eyes wonder to that place whence golden times can still be glimpsed. Without fail, everyone goes on to reveal that they once worked for Senhor Felix.

A lot of hard work it must have been, and some good memories (starting with an abundance of youth, sun and strawberries) – all drowned in three decades of silence, the inexorable march of brambles and seasons. One persistent relic remains: the place is covered in granite posts and corroded wire. This rusty grid stretches between trees and terraces, climbs and claims every corner. We are walking in a graveyard of vines.

Over the past months, the old wire has been snagging our blades and ankles, throwing down sharp tentacles to attack us. We fought back, cut through and pulled yards of consumptive metal from trees, rocks and bushes. We made piles of coiled wire and stumbled into them everywhere. They had to go.

There are ways. People who go around villages and pick up scrap metal, take it to the yard and sell it for pennies, this being their income. A couple of Brazilians appeared late last year and picked up a large load. We tried to track them down again and failed.

One such 'team' passed through the village yesterday, while Moona was pruning trees. He was delighted, they set to work. “Where are you from”, he asked. “Portugal”, they replied in halting Portuguese.

They were Romanian. Moona mentioned me and their eyes popped out. One made a low gurgling sound and asked if perhaps Moona spoke a few words of Romanian. That was a bit like asking a duck if perhaps it felt like swimming in the river. Or a yearling bullock if perhaps it wanted to go and gore a crimson gringo butt in Granada. Moona opened his mouth and didn't stop for hours. When I found him later, he was still flushed and full of national gossip, muttering scraps of sentences just for the joy of them.

The two Romanians walked the land gathering old wire. This they piled into a shabby van, then stayed on to help Moona clear some wood. Their story emerged, as sad as the rusty skeleton of Senhor Felix's vineyard, now coiled in the back of the van... They lived with a relative miles away. Did whatever work they could, however hard and poorly paid. They hadn't eaten in days. Moona gave them a little money and his lunch, some clementines and tobacco and it felt better than Christmas.

They left before sunset because they had a long way to go, what with having to stop every ten minutes and douse their radiator in cold water. Might come back to help us with the building some day. But then, they might not. So many of the Romanians who sought their fortunes in Europe after the borders opened are now going back. Perhaps the uncertainty of times ahead and any amount of hardship are easier to bear at home.

I didn't meet them but it suddenly occurred to me that they too had become part of Senhor Felix's brigade: his last workers, dismantling the last of his vineyard. Beyond time, rust and neglect, Senhor Felix's garden had found a way to feed another mouth.


At 16 February 2009 at 21:42 , Blogger Magnus said...

SO not fair ! (talked for hours). we did chat a bit, and stop for some lunch and a smoke, maybe, but we did a bit of work too.

It was great to work with them. I tried to call them back for the past few days but their phone is so off.


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