|Dawn on the summer plains (Martin Kelsey)|
These days I head out before dawn (which now just over a month from the solstice has withdrawn to a very respectable seven o'clock). Heading south, the Garciaz hills to my left are outlines against a pale apricot sky. As I pass through villages on my way, many inhabitants are out performing that most time-honoured rural custom: the paseo. Almost every village will have a well-laid path that takes the walkers out beside a road, sometimes for two or three kilometres, with regularly spaced benches and ornamental trees. Here old and young take a daily (or twice daily) constitutional, which in the summer will be pre-dawn and after sunset. Historically it was quite strictly segregated by gender and still I notice that the small groups of twos and threes are almost invariably single-sex, the paseo still providing a chance for gossip, small talk and problem-sharing: women with women, men with men. The social fabric is still strong in Spanish villages, holding together in the face of the attrition of depopulation - few new people come to live in these villages and they are greatly outnumbered by those who leave in search for work.
|Dried cardoon thistles (Martin Kelsey)|
I reach the plains at the same time as the sun does. Despite the prolongation of flowers this spring, the summer though hesitant at the start has now reached its inevitable and unstoppable climax. Even the cardoon thistles that gave out the final shout of colour have now blended in their dessication to the subtled whispering hues of golden, tawny blond. Underfoot the grasses and herbs are crisp and fragment at touch.
|Moulting first-year male Lesser Kestrel (Martin Kelsey)|
|Juvenile Roller (Martin Kelsey)|
Rollers too are on the fences, again with adults outshone by their fledged young. The latter are more subtle in their tone, unlike their parents whose outrageousness has now become tatty. The young birds combine an attractive naivity with tidiness, freshness in both senses, with each feather perfectly formed and shaped, as the individual becomes shaped through learning and experience. Each day that passes marks another success for its survival.