Tag Archives: rural

Plastic Chairs in the Forest

When things aren’t the way they should be, something occupies a space it normally wouldn’t, our brains lock onto it like a homing missile, even when we’re not particularly paying attention.

Things like a white, plastic chair in the middle of the pine forest.


I’m only casually paying attention to the rural landscape outside the car as we drive along a country road through miles and miles of stone pines. The presence of the plastic chair registers a couple of hundred metres after we pass it; my head swivels backwards, but it’s already lost in the undergrowth, so I don’t mention it to my fellow passengers. People dump all sorts of shit near the road, even out here apparently.

A couple of kilometres further on and I spot another plastic chair ahead; my mind’s more acutely tuned in to its surroundings now. This time, as we pass, I notice a woman standing in the shade cast by a tall tree a few metres away from the chair.
“There’s a woman and a plastic chair in the forest,” I blurt out, bemused.
“What?” A turns her head to look at me.
“There’s a woman standing beside a plastic chair in the forest,” I repeat.
It’s especially strange as there’s nothing out here. No towns, villages, shops, nothing. It’s just a country road linking A with B.
“She’s a prostitute,” J says knowledgeably from the back seat.
“Get away,” I laugh. “Why would there be a prostitute in a random spot in the countryside?”
Just at that we pass another plastic chair under the shade of a tree. This time there’s a blonde woman wearing a slinky red dress sitting on it. She looks like she belongs in a club rather than a pine forest. Her wildly out of place clothing seems to confirm J’s suggestion.

But why here? It’s not in the middle of nowhere exactly, but neither is it near, well, anywhere. The very idea of prostitutes in the forest throws up all sorts of questions.
Do drivers just accidentally spot these women lurking in the dappled shade and think “well, that was good timing, I just had a yen for a quick one beside the road” in much the same manner they might develop a hunger a burger at a roadside cafe? How do the women get there? There’s no car nearby. Is there a pimp bus which drops them off in the morning and picks them up again at night? How long is the shift? It must get pretty lonely out here on your lonesome for hours and hours. Is there an app which tells drivers which forests are best for a bit of off road action?
It seems random, bizarre. On a seedy, city backstreet we wouldn’t think twice about passing ladies of the night plying their trade, but when it comes to ladies of the forest that’s something very different. It’s a scenic scene which simply doesn’t equate.

Six months further down the line and we’re driving along a different country road in the wilds of Alentejo when a man in a blue tee-shirt and denims emerging from the forest catches my eye. My initial reaction is that he’s stopped for a piss; the parked truck on the opposite side of the road appears to back this up.

And then I spot the plastic chair.

The Lights are Out

We spent the night in another part of the island, sitting on a hillside watching a fiery sunset from above the clouds.

Cars from the clouds, Vilaflor, Tenerife

At one point, below us a plane emerged from the blue bank of fluffy but threatening clouds at the same time and nearly the same place as a car’s headlights. At least from our position it looked as though it was nearly the same place. Curious.

Above us the sky dazzled with constellations.

This morning someone had painted it a dull grey.

Drizzle and low mist accompanied us on the drive home through the mountains. We sprinted through watery bullets to the sanctuary of the house… and discovered the electricity was off, the main switch tripped. Heavy rain was the culprit. Whilst we enjoyed ourselves above the clouds, their contents had been making mischief.

I flicked the switch and it jumped back to its mutinous non-working position.

I tried again and it immediately flicked off again.

This was a problem.

The electricity company had recently installed a new meter on the road about 100 metres away. Don’t ask me why our electricity meter should be there, it just is. ‘Improvements’ here can often result in the opposite, so the first thing I did was to check it hadn’t malfunctioned. It hadn’t.

A red light bleeped a clear message. ‘It’s not my fault.’

The second suspect was a socket under the avocado tree in the garden. It’s been a problem in the past. If not positioned properly, rainwater seeps in and trips the electricity.

On my way to the suspect tree I met my neighbours talking to an unfamiliar man who seemed to know a lot about electricity (I don’t). He advised me to carry out an elimination process, switching certain areas on and off and trying the main switch to identify where the problem was. It seemed a sound and simple idea.

A couple of clicks later and the avocado tree was found guilty as suspected.

The electricity is back on, and so is the rain.

In the garden, a plug socket underneath an avocado tree sits encased in a plastic bag under the protection of the bottom part of an eight litre plastic water bottle.

This primitive contraption will determine whether we will have light tonight.