S/n, or how do people find you without a house number?

You’re probably wondering what s/n means; it stands for “sin numero,” in other words, “no number.” And that is typical of most houses in the countryside here. Some houses have put up names on their gates thus — La Casita de María. Or just Los Olivares (Olive Trees), or Los Pineros (Pine Trees). We still haven’t decided on ours — Casa Dos Aguilas? (There are eagles on our gate posts, but others do too. Others have lions. I’ve seen garden gnomes in another village.)

At least our lane (camí in Valenciano, camino in Castellano) has a number. Or it did, until a new initiative by the Neighbourhood Association for permanent signposting. All the old signposts with numbers have been taken down. In their place are black signposts with white text. Only the first few signposts have been completed, but halfway through, they are just blank black signposts. So our lane and those further up are numberless at the moment. At a general assembly of the hamlet’s Neighbourhood Association last Saturday, the convenors said it would take another 2 – 3 weeks till the rest of the numbers are ready for glueing into place. In that case, why not leave the old signposts in place until everything is ready? So we are in more of a limbo than we ever were.

Which is why our local nurseryman, Enrique, of Vivers Agave near Ador, spent a good hour searching up and down the hamlet when he came to deliver some plants. I did warn him about the situation with the signposting, but he said, “Oh no problem, I’ll find you. I have friends who invite me over for paella just a couple of lanes away from you.” He hadn’t reckoned on the numbers not being there.

And why not have text on both sides of the signpost –- for the benefit of people coming from the other direction? “No one comes from the other direction,” was the airily facetious reply from one of the assembly convenors. And so the deliverer of estiercol (manure) from Alicante had a hard time finding us as well, coming from the other direction (from L’Orxa instead of Gandia). That was when we still had the old signposts up. Poor man had to beg to phone from the restaurant’s landline. There is no mobile phone coverage in our hamlet either, except for a small area near the entrance.

So yes, it does pose somewhat of a difficulty — for other people, not for us (we know where we live), not having a house number, or temporarily not having lane signposting, or not having mobile phone reception (we’ve got a landline — one of the few in the hamlet). In the old days, perhaps it was no problem at all – everyone knew everybody else. These days, it’s a wee bit complicated, what with around 100 families settling in from the UK, France, and Germany. With Brexit, one may expect more of a British diaspora in the near future.

So how do we manage to get mail delivered? Simple. Each house has an assigned postal box and number in a locked shed in the middle of the hamlet. You get a key for the shed door and another for your post box. And what about getting things delivered? The shipment of our household goods from the UK, incredibly enough, made it here. That was nothing short of a miracle. Bless the company, St. George. I think they’re based in Northamptonshire. The shipment from Germany needed more guidance, even though the company, just like St. George Shippers, had hired local forwarders based in Denia. They had to be met at the petrol station.

For deliveries from shops in Gandia, I have to explain exactly how many lanes we are from a known landmark – the restaurant in the middle of the hamlet. Then how many houses ours is from the corner, and set an approximate time, so that we can leave the gate open. And I always caution that there is no mobile phone coverage, so if they need to get directions clarified, to phone before arriving at the hamlet.

It causes no end of amusement on the part of urban dwellers how we boondocks dwellers manage, living the way we do. (Btw, the word ‘boondocks’ comes from my birth country, the Philippines – bundok in Tagalog or Pilipino means ‘mountain.’) All it takes is a little bit of patience giving explicit directions, which is rather good for language practice. If nothing else, it furnishes the other party a bit of comic relief from a straightforward message of delivery. Good for dinner-time comedy: “Man, do you know what I had to go through at work today? You cannot imagine! How these foreigners can stand living in such out-of-the-way places is totally beyond me!”

At the general neighbourhood assembly, one woman asked why couldn’t we have house numbers. It would make it so much easier for people to drop by, she said. Well, one convenor answered, what if you don’t wish to be found? Quite droll, this past assembly. And despite all the heated discussion, they came to no agreement on what action to take about the stray dogs. It seems there’s a woman who keeps on bringing in dogs, but doesn’t keep them inside her property nor feed them properly, and they’ve become a nuisance. I’ve noticed that people often carry long sticks when they go on walks — not for support, but against dogs. The dogs have taken to attacking people unloading shopping from their cars. Not a pleasant situation. In the meantime, according to the Neighbourhood Association, there’s nothing to be done officially, as the Ayuntamiento does not have sufficient resources to resolve the issue. Hmmm….

Sea squill w bug g_4468

On this last day of August, the sea squill’s blooms are nearly at the end of the spike. Tomorrow, the last at the tip will be in bloom, and with them, the end of summer. The mornings are gradually becoming cooler. The breezes too. The sun is much lower in the sky and its rays shine into our south-facing veranda just a bit more. I have given the sea squill another name — “Farewell to Summer.”

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