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Spanish Water. By Paul Hawkins.


The day starts very early working as a general labourer on a Brit-run building site in the province of Almeria, Andalucia. The day has to start early. The brummie boss doesn't do siestas, so, insists we start at 6am, take 20mins break to eat, and keep on slogging and sweating until 2pm. Then we go home. This is exhausting. But, it is also very useful to have a no-paperwork, illegal, euro in hand, job. I have mouths to feed and bills to pay, like everyone.

The Spanish electrician thinks we British foreigners are mad, but that is nothing abnormal. He does have the theme tune to Stan and Ollie's short black and white comedy classics as his mobile ring tone though. The brummie boss thinks this is hilarious. Brits, along with many other non-Spanish Europeans, have swarmed like flies around shit to this part of Spanish desert in Almeria, where the property is (was) cheap along with the booze and fags. There is cultural rape money to be made here.

99% of those Brits I have come across seem to want their little piece of Birmingham, Manchester or wherever here in Spain. This means pints of lager, sun, barbecues and cheap fags. As well as drug abuse, addiction, violent gang fights, stabbings, and mucho macho racist posturing. This part is familiar to the world all over, I guess. I hoped to leave that all behind me. Issues about this race round my head. I am British too.

Whilst mixing cement a very old and upset woman came by and asked for help. I then spoke sufficient Spanish to work out what she needed. Her son had died and she had no other family within 500km. Her orange and lemon groves were suffocating in this July heat and, she wasn't strong enough to turn on the irrigation. I was laughed at by the Brits on the site as I went off with her. None of them could be arsed to listen to her. I opened a heavy manhole cover in the road and jumped into a small hole, turned the valve and the water flooded out, streaming through the irrigation channels like swarms of cars entering spaghetti junction for the first time, rushing to the dusty tree roots. Her problem was also that the irrigation channels had fallen into disrepair and were in urgent need of maintenance. I said I would see what I could do.

This old lady was beside herself with fear for her future. She had no income, no family locally and hundreds of fruit trees wilting and desperate for agua. I promised her I would return to turn off the water at 2pm. It was too hot to do anything at that hour, including watering her thirsty fruit trees. She thanked me many times over. I walked back to the site. By now the tea break had ended. Piss take comments in British accents echoed around the freshly rendered walls, I went to mix Spanish cement, with Spanish sand and Spanish water, which was used to build a house in Spain, for the British.

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