Finca Banega

Today John Simmons and Stuart Delves are in Spain with the Dark Angels advanced group and I’m preparing to leave for Hyderabad in the morning.

It has been a strange day, knowing they’re there in that beautiful place, basking in warm autumn sunshine. Much of the time I’ve been wishing heartily I was with them. But I have a different journey to make, and there’s much to look forward to in India.

Right now though, on a grey afternoon in Perthshire, I’m feeling in limbo, caught between those two worlds – or should I say continents. Perhaps because I’ve been to Spain more recently, my thoughts are pulled to southern Europe, and in particular to the private finca that a small group of students will visit tomorrow morning. It’s a beautiful stretch of wild, rolling countryside, mantled with small oak trees, and populated by lazy cattle and black Iberian pigs. A good five miles down a dirt track stands the cortijo, an elegant whitewashed house with a terracotta roof and a large central courtyard. It was built sixty or seventy years ago entirely from materials found on the estate, not just the stone and timber, but even the clay from which the floor tiles were fired.

The land at Finca Banega has been generous with its resources for a long time. Up the hill from the house is a Roman quarry where you can still see the shapes of the millstones that were hewn from the granite, two thousand years ago. The first time we went there, six years ago, and climbed the hill, I was transported back at once. Later, I imagined this scene that might have played itself out there:

We woke at first light
Gracchus and I
Shivered in the Iberian dawn
Unfurled our cloaks
Rose yawning from the bony ground
And broke our fast with sweet, ripe figs
Plucked from the tree
Still cool with dew

Mist hung like bull’s breath
Among the holm oaks
As we hefted satchels on our backs
And climbed the rock-strewn path
Scattering sleepy piglets at our step

Sun rose, shadows melted
Light trickled down the hill
Warming the dust-dry earth
And on the scrawny plain below
Goat bells broke the silence
With their gurgling song

Ahead, a pocked loaf of granite
Reared into the deepening blue
In its shadow lesser boulders
Crouched like pagan worshippers

We downed our satchels, lit a fire
And cooked our porridge
In a haze of aromatic smoke
A small brown scorpion
Scuttled from a crevice
And watched us as we ate
Gracchus crushed it with his sandal
We spat on hands and set to work

All that long hot morning
We bored stone
Wrestling augers
Till our muscles cracked
The air grew thick with dust
And sweat ran down our backs
Our necks and thighs

When the holes were deep enough
I took the twenty-seven oaken pegs
And hammered hard
Driving them one by one
Into their beds of stone

Gracchus lugged the leather bucket
To the spring
Filling it with sweet cool water
That would swell the oak
And split the rock
And conjure rough-hewn millstones
To grind our daily bread

At last we rested in the shade
Dreaming of wives and home
We waited as the sun beat down
And nature’s forces took their course
While far from this forgotten place
Amid the seven hills of Rome
More skilful hands than ours
Made gods of men
And carved their likenesses
In marble from Liguria

About Jamie Jauncey

Author, writer, blogger, facilitator, musician, co-founder of Dark Angels and The Stories We Tell
This entry was posted in Dark Angels, India, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Finca Banega

  1. Hazel says:

    JamieSitting here, surrounded by Lycian architecture and ancient burial tombs carved in the rock face by many so hands unknown, your poem feels so aposite and deeply touching. Particularly as I gathered sweet ripened figs for lunch today. P.S. You may have guessed already ….Bill and I are not in Dalguise.

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