I am drawn to head north again, out of the gorges and mountain drama of the Priorat and up onto the vast landscape of southern Lleida, those close yet, for too long, distant rolling plains of history and mystery.
A few years back I would regularly crest the ridge and suddenly feel that space, and see the city of Lleida in the pastel distance, a galleon riding the swell on a vast sea of ochre and green.
But I failed to stop and breathe. I was teaching at a business school beside the River Segre, rudely bustling in and out of the province with no time for pleasantries. I did not – I still do not – know much about it at all. I am more familiar with the mountainous north; shameful given that I have been a neighbour for sixteen years.
So we will go this year, slowly. And there is somewhere in particular we desperately want to visit, to acknowledge, to be able to speak of with certainty; to feel. It is the community of Arbeca, home to 2400 people, set among the groves of Les Garrigues.
Those would be arbequina olive groves, of course, for it is this modest place that gives that extraordinary fruit its name – the juice of which has, in no small part, allowed me permanence and a truly remarkable sense of place and belonging.
A writer without a name that trips off the tongue usually has more than one hat. To spend a year on a book or a screenplay with no certainty of income requires ... um ... a little dexterity and boundless faith, not least from your family. So with one hand I put pen to.....