In the Chinese zodiac, each year is attributed with the characteristics of an animal, and one of five rotating elements. 2020 was, according to this zodiac, The Year of The Metal Rat. It was also the year that the world went bat-sh** crazy! If I could allocate a totem animal to the year 2020, I’d give it the bat, for obvious reasons, and if poop was an element, I would give it that too. So, according to Heath’s zodiac, 2020 was Year of the Poop Bat.
The last day of December 2019 was not a good one for me. My mother passed away, early in the morning of the 31st. At midnight, as 2020 dropped its first load of guano on the world, my exhausted brother and I sipped a strong drink together, and in the small flat, from which the light of my radiant mother was now absent, we came to terms with being middle-aged orphans.
I returned to my home in Galicia after the funeral, to some devastating news, like I needed some more. A shiny new year ruling from the Xunta in Lugo made our B&B business, which was fully booked until October, illegal. We’d received five-star feedback from our first groups of guests, and we were looking forward to a very busy and lucrative spring and summer. We also looked forward to meeting lots of new people from all over the world. Then, bam! The ruling was brutal. All trading and advertising had to cease immediately. All bookings had to be cancelled, or we faced heavy fines.
Two years of (expensive) renovation work on our house, and all of my savings, were invested in the B&B venture. Fortunately, we had Plan B, which we launched immediately – (I am always slightly worried by new migrants who boldly announce that they don’t have an income organized. Then, they blame “The Spanish System” and not their own foolishness, when it all goes “tapsal-teerie.”) My frustration and disappointment went straight onto the mounting guano heap along with our business plan. Still, no point crying over spilt bat poop. Onwards and upwards!
February was uneventful, for me. Not so for the two former colleagues whom I knew and liked, who died. Cancer and heart disease took these friends of my own vintage. COVID-19 became the talk of the town, trips to see old friends in the UK, and a visit from family who live in the USA were shelved, and the poop-heap grew.
March. Well, we all know what happened in March. We learned to love our own company. I have never been more grateful to be living in rural Galicia. We agreed to have a Workaway volunteer stay with us, which turned into six weeks of lockdown, because he simply couldn’t move on anywhere else. He helped us to complete some landscaping. On the down-side, our trip to Northern Ireland for a family wedding had to be cancelled. The wedding was postponed to December, and became a Zoom event.
April and May: As spring sprung, we got into the garden. We also planned a trip to Barcelona, which we then had to cancel, due to changing restrictions on travel. Wheelbarrowing guano to the compost heap was good exercise though!
June and July: More gardening. No summer vacation. We haven’t had one of those since 2016. We did manage to take a day-trip to the coast with friends. Fortunately, we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, so a twenty-minute drive takes us to paradise. We can stand transfixed at the miradors and contemplate the mountains of bat-manure on the horizon.
August and September: We prepared a small run to accommodate three chickens, and a magnificent custom-built, pre-fabricated henhouse appeared one Saturday, courtesy of our friend’s son. We also enjoyed a day-trip to the Isla de Ceis, travelling with a local coach tour company, run by three enterprising young Gallegos, who are now struggling to maintain their new business. We vowed to return to the campsite for a week in 2021.
October and November: I bought three bonny Gallinas de Mos from a local supplier; two red and one black. My neighbours have all told me that most Gallegos keep one or two black hens in their flock, to deter birds of prey. For some reason, raptors think they look like crows, from the air, so they are less likely to swoop on them. We named our fluffy-bottomed chicas Matilda, Martha and Mary. They were only pullets, so they were not expected to lay eggs until spring. We had a few months to feed them up and settle them into a routine – important for chickens, who, like me, are creatures of habit!
December: Christmas was somewhat subdued. I decorated and made a Belen, which wouldn’t win any crafting awards. We hosted friends the first two Christmases in Galicia, but we decided that our third Christmas would be a family affair. Just us, the dogs, cat, and chickens. No turkey. We had lamb. I received two small miracles on Christmas morning: As I stood on the terrace at 6am, contemplating the universe, I saw a shooting star, and our hens laid two perfect eggs!
We spent St. Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day with friends, enjoying raucous card games, a pot-luck buffet, and far too much wine. At some point we girls pledged to form a ladies’ walking group in the New Year. Our first outing will be on the 12th January, two days after I turn sixty years old.
So, the Year of the Poop Bat has ended. 2021 has not begun its life auspiciously. But we are still here, on this Sacred Shore, enjoying all that this place of wonder and enchantment has to offer. All is right in our little world.