Wednesday, 20 July 2011
When we first arrived in Las Pinedas my beloved late wife Fay and I spent much time trying to imagine explanations for the two 10-litre containers of bottled water which to this day still stand on the front step of our immediate next-door neighbour’s house. We have could think of no credible explanations. The two bottles stood there, defying the mind. What were they there for? Finally Fay determined to ask our neighbour Maria-Carmen during that moment of truth every morning, when the ladies go out in their kaftans and dressing-gowns to buy bread from the gossipy bread-lady who seems to arrive a little later every morning, such is her appetite for conversation as she drives the fresh bread around. After Fay had ordered a large integral (a baguette made of whole-wheat flour) and my neighbour with more mouths to feed had bought the necessary five loaves and seven dulces (sweet powdery cakes), the question was finally put. The answer? The big bottles were put there to deter the local cats from peeing on the front step. This is a big issue in Southern Spain, where in the great heats of high summer the villagers like to sit out on their own front steps at night, enjoying the cooler evening air before trooping off to bed sometime after mid-night. Of course in those circumstances you wouldn’t want a cat to have got there before you. But what part do the water bottles play in cat-prevention? Aha! You see it is widely believed in this part of Spain that cats are frightened by their own reflections. (This belief .may have its origins in the superstitious connection of cats with witches – who certainly did some strange things with mirrors!). So along comes the cat, bent on a crafty micturation, eyeing up your door-step beadily to that end, when to its horror it catches sight of another, identical cat stalking towards it from inside a 10-litre water-bottle! Obviously it hurries off and pees on someone else’s less well-protected door-step. As President Bush once said: ‘Mission accomplished!’.