Driving Over Lemons

I’ve always thought it would be great to pack it up and move to a charming little farmhouse in rural Spain with a few sheep and chickens to validate the scheme. But then hasn’t everyone? I must not want to live the dream all that much though, as I’ve made no steps to investigate the foreign real estate market or learn how to raise happy chickens. I was delighted then to find a memoir where the writer, Chris Stewart, (the original drummer in Genesis), packs up for Andalucía, testing out the fantasy for me.

I stumbled upon Driving Over Lemons a few years ago while staying at a B & B in Wales. If you know the regular B & B reading fare (books people left rather intentionally), then you’ll know how surprised I was to find myself engrossed in this Brit’s effort to establish a new life in Spain with his wife and daughter. 

Only able to read two chapters before the Welsh countryside called (oh, Yorkshire pudding), I bought the book straightaway when I got home and read how Stewart, on a payphone, broke the news to Ana, his wife, that he had purchased a farmhouse with a dribbling water supply in a dusty region of Spain. When he shows her the place for the first time, she asks:


“What do you mean, ‘that’?”

“Precisely that—that.”

“Well, ‘that’ is it. El Valero. What do you think?”

“I don’t think at all from this distance. I’ll reserve judgement till we get a little nearer.”

We drove on into the valley and stopped at a nearer vantage point. 

“Well, I think it really looks rather nice.”

I looked at Ana in amazement and delight. She is not generally given to such outbursts of enthusiasm.

The book details the life they make at El Valero with humor and humility, making light of the myriad things that go wrong on the property while learning and appreciating the customs of the locals.

Now, years later, I wondered whatever happened to that family, and, with glorious abundance, the Interweb delivered; there was not one, but two follow-ups. After a protracted hunt for the second book, A Parrot in the Pepper Tree, I had a used copy shipped to me from England and am in the midst of discovering how the family has fared. I don’t want it to end, mostly because it’s entertaining, but partly because I’ve yet to procure the third book, The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society, seemingly available as an audio download, which I suspect means that 1) rural Spain gets some technology in this installment and 2) I’ll probably never know how the story ends because technology frightens me.


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