I have been pruning all the trees at El Parral. I am into my second winter season here, and the trees have mostly been saved. Regular readers may remember the trees were in a poor state because the property had been long derelict. Now is the time to increase the yield by pruning back the trees and encouraging new growth for the next fruiting season, particularly for the olive trees. They did not produce any fruit at the end of 2016, but this past autumn of 2017 I had olives on all but the saplings on level 3.
There are also trees in the valley and today I went down to prune those. I was a bit wary of going down there at present because of the presence of wild boar. The donkeys have been regularly lining up at the fence on level 2 to snort loudly into the valley, as the can hear and scent the wild boars down there, crashing around in the trees by the stream.
The type of wild boar that we find in these parts is not a native to Alicante but a Vietnamese wild boar which was introduced into the area in very recent times. (I have been told it was done by US Air Force personnel based in this area in the 1960s-1990s, for sport hunting. I haven’t yet seen any evidence to support this theory, but local hunters have told me that is the case.) The proliferation of the boars has become a menace, according to the mountain conservation officers, who say that the destruction of native vegetation – including planted rare species which they are attempting to conserve – is getting serious and out-of-control. Damage to stone walls is also a common occurrence, and I have seen evidence of this on my lower terraces in the valley. The boar will root around digging up vegetation and root material, under stone walls, which then collapse. Erosion will follow in the next rains if the walls are not replaced. Stone walling is a traditional craft and a very expensive job, if you get specialist builders to repair the walls properly.
Today, however, I am more concerned about my own preservation. Going down into the valley to prune the olive trees there, I am taking a steel pitchfork as a defensive weapon, just in case. One of my favourite texts when I was teaching GCSE English Literature back in secondary schools in Canterbury, Kent, was Lord of the Flies; the dystopian novel showing the savage that lies just below the civilised veneer of western civilised culture. I think of this as I am walking down to the valley carrying my pitchfork. “Kill the pig! Kill the pig!” The chant goes through my head and my heart starts racing… What would it be like to plunge a pitchfork into a charging boar? Would I live to tell the tale? I try to move my focus to the olive pruning… but I remain alert to the slightest sound from the trees by the stream.
Later in the day I turn again to the increasing pile of tasks that require dealings with Spanish and British bureacracy. This is nothing to do with my paid work but simply the routine dealings with bureaucratic systems, just in order to live (alone in a house in the country with four donkeys and two chickens). At present I am dealing with no fewer than three Spanish agencies and two British ones, just on matters regarding donkeys, pensions and the transfer of ownership of a car. It has cost me the major part of my free time for the best part of a week.
I think this is probably typical: most people spend far more time these days dealing with bureacracies. Why? Because computers have the capacity to generate far more complex problems for human beings, and also produce vast quantities of paperwork that mere humans using typewriters never had time to do! Far from creating a “paperless office” (the worst futuristic prediction ever made), computers generate more paperwork and more bureaucratic problems.
Reflecting once again on Lord of the Flies, I wonder what would have happened if a group of schoolboys crashed on that island now, in 2018, and within the wreckage of the plane they were able to salvage ten computers, half a dozen printers, a small electric generator, and two crates of A4 printer paper.
“So you think you saw a beast, eh?” Ralph looked up from behind his computer screen. “Could you fill in this BR100 Beast Sighting Report Form and give it to Piggy who will input the details onto the Beast Database.”
At the end of the boys’ adventures, the Royal Navy arrive to find an island festooned with paper and half the boys under guard in a prison camp for offences involving hunting, fishing, swimming or picking fruit without the correct paperwork, licences or permissions.
Yes, Lord of the Files.
A worse nightmare than Golding could ever have devised.