Sunday, 2 October 2016

Llanos Harvest Festival and Sunday Lunch

Having gone to bed late, it was well after sunrise when I woke up, so there was no time to take a look outdoors or eat breakfast at a leisurely pace, but I was in the car and on my way to rendezvous with Alwyn and Pam at a commercial centre close to the autovia, about 15km from the apartment, so that we could travel together to the church at Llanos del Peral, where I was to celebrate at preach at eleven.

I took a wrong turning in Garrucha, the next town north along the coast, and went south west instead of north west. I realised the further I travelled that landmarks I'd noticed close to the road during last night's journey were not appearing, so I stopped and called Alwyn and was re-directed to the autovia, several junctions further south from where they were waiting for me. I made it to the agreed place only ten minutes late, and we proceeded to Llanos and arrived when we'd planned to.

It was a Harvest Festival celebration, and there were sixty people present, forty nine of whom received communion. The place was beautifully decorated, and all the foodbank offerings were arranged in a pleasing display before the altar. We even had a traditional wheatsheaf shaped Harvest Loaf, and some purple grapes on the altar. I just remembered my Jamaican bus driving non-stipendiary curate back in St Paul's Bristol using the very biblical descriptive word 'shewbread' in this context. 

The church building is a simple functional twentieth century 'mission church' design, with several rooms, used for educational and social purposes, with a kitchen and toilet, all behind a worship area accommodating sixty. There's a large patio on the south side, where tables and large umbrellas had been arranged for 'bring and share' lunch following the service. 

Llanos del Peral is a spread out rural village in rolling uplands with the sierras behind. It's grown in recent years as Brits have settled there, away from the coast, converting old farmhouses or building anew in the Andalusian arichtectural style. It's an area of orchards and horticulture. The dark green of the fruit trees contrasts with the pale yellow, if not white or grey sandy soils of the region. Ranks of mountains several hundred metres high seem to erupt from vast plains at intervals, not close enough to each other to form what may be considered valleys. I'm finding it difficult to estimate the scale of distances, as happens when travelling in the plains of East Anglia. It'll take a while to get the measure of this region, classed by low rainfall as 'semi-arid', and for that reason ecologically interesting.

I received such a warm welcome, and it's clear there's a lively sense of community spirit and pleasure at being a congregation among its members. Former Chaplain, Pauline Williams, ex-Llandaff diocese, was asked to create an opportunity for worship in this area two years ago, and once a gathering place had been found, people gathered in good numbers and the community has continued to grow in the twenty one months since they began. The time and place were clearly right, and it's to Pauline's credit for realising this. Needless to say, she is much missed.

It was gone two by the time we headed back towards the coast. After collecting the car on the road into Garrucha, I spotted a small 'open all hours' convenience store that was open, and was able to buy fruit and veg for an evening meal. This isn't a region where the supermarkets feel the need to stay open on Sundays, outside holiday high season. Once back at the apartment, a siesta had to be my priority after a long drink of water, then a walk into Mojacar and back, to learn about the neighbourhood.

The beach is a 50-100m deep. In some places there are houses along the edge, and in others there's an open area with a few restaurants, children's play parks and several beach sport recreational areas. The coast road runs along behind, and then, further back behind lawns, are hotels and holiday apartment blocks, but nothing higher than four storeys and mostly in the Andalusian architectural style. I guess that Mojacar developed later than other coastal resorts, and in a way where there's been more planning than in those areas where builders and landowners once competed to exploit lucrative space, producing tall, sometimes ugly urban sprawl right next to the beach promenade. Mojacar Playa has certainly grown a townscape that's more pleasing to the eye than most.

I began to walk up the road toward the old pueblo blanco, as the sun was setting behind the mountain that cradles the ancient hill village, and took some photos, but then turned back. I'd been walking for an hour. It was twilight by the time I reached the apartment, but the exercise did me good, and helped to make me feel grounded in my new abode, as did cooking supper in an excellent spacious kitchen, in a lovely house, in a quiet street. A good place to return to, given the distances needing to be travelled. I understand the pastoral area is roughly the size of Wales!

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