The rain in Spain…

The rain in Spain…

We usually think more of sunshine when we think about the climate down here in Andalucía. With over 300 days of sunshine per year, it’s hardly a wet area. Yet when it does rain, it certainly does it with a vengeance. In the last dozen years spent as a resident here Paul Whitelock has experienced his fair share of bad weather. Here are some of his thoughts over that period.

20 December 2010

“Rain, rain, go away… (part 1)

… Come again some other day!”  OK, the joke’s over!  ¡Basta ya con la lluvia!  We’ve had more than enough of the wet stuff now! It’s hardly stopped here in the Serranía de Ronda since 16 December last year! Over 500 litres per square metre fell in just two weeks, according to the Spanish Met Office (INM)!

Local rivers have burst their banks five times! Hotels and other holiday accommodation have been inundated and put out of business, homes have been flooded and crops ruined.

The infrastructure has been significantly damaged: roads, rail lines, public buildings, housing stock, drainage systems.  Houses are growing mould inside because of the ongoing damp conditions and no chance to dry out.

Insurance companies are refusing to pay out ¡acto de Dios! – so everyone is passing the responsibility buck: Ayuntamientos, Junta de Andalucía, ADIF (the rail company).  Nobody wants to fork out the compensation, although it looks as if the Junta de Andalucía may ultimately have to pick up the tab for failing to maintain its rivers properly.

On the positive side the reservoirs are fuller than they’ve been for many a year.  My village, Montejaque, has acquired a reservoir it never had since an ill-conceived and ill-fated dam was constructed in 1929!

But, really, we’ve had enough now …

“Rain rain go away
Come again some other day
Rain, rain, go away
Bring my love a sunny day.”

19 January 2011

“Rain, rain, go away!” (2)

Rain rain go away,
Come again another day.
Little Johnny wants to play;
Rain, rain, go to Spain,
Never show your face again!

The history and origins of the lyrics to this version of the English nursery rhyme date back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), one of the Tudor monarchs. During this period of English history there was constant rivalry between Spain and England culminating in the launch of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

The Armada, led by the Duke of Medina Sedonia, numbered over 130 galleons, while the English fleet, under Admiral Lord Howard, totalled just 34 small Navy vessels and 163 armed merchant ships. His second-in-command that day was Sir Francis Drake.  The most famous (but probably apocryphal) anecdote about Drake and the Spanish Armada relates that, prior to the battle, he was playing a game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe. On being warned of the approach of the Spanish fleet, Drake is said to have remarked that there was plenty of time to finish the game and still beat the Spaniards. There is no known eyewitness account of this incident and the earliest retelling of it was printed 37 years later.

Whatever the truth, the great Spanish Armada was defeated. Only 65 Spanish galleons and just 10,000 men returned to Spain.

Truth is the attack by the Spanish Armada failed because of superior tactics, the swift nature of the smaller English ships and also because of the stormy weather which scattered the Armada fleet. Hence the origins of this version of the nursery rhyme.

December 2018

The Rain in Spain

“The rain in Spain falls mainly on the pla–ain”

This lyric from the musical My Fair Lady based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw is a load of nonsense. In my 12 years’ experience of living in the Serranía de Ronda, the rain in Spain falls mainly on the adjacent Sierra de Grazalema. In fact the town of Grazalema is the wettest place in Spain. According to official statistics, more of the wet stuff falls on this pretty mountain town than anywhere else in the whole of Spain. More even than in the towns of Galicia, Asturias and the Basque Country, which we more readily associate with wet weather.

In 2018 you would have thought the end of the world was nigh. In the spring heavy rain fell over a short period and caused major flooding around the Serranía de Ronda. At the Hotel Molino del Puente, at the bottom of the hill below our house, the restaurant, bar and terrace ended up under 30cm of water. Miraculously the hotel was cleaned, dried out and re-opened within 48 hours!

Then in October of the same year, so much rain fell in three hours that the whole of the area was declared an emergency zone. The hotel suffered again – this time water was lapping the ceiling of the bar and restaurant and first floor rooms were flooded by the torrent that ran off the fields, busted the land drains and entered through the front door of the hotel. This time the clear-up took longer and the hotel didn’t re-open until April 2019.

The road past our house became a river. A friend’s car was washed away and ours was left suspended over a ditch that had been created when the water rinsed away the side of the road where my car was parked. The car had to be craned out and transported to the garage.

In Ronda, the emblematic Arab Baths were badly damaged and many streets, including the main shopping street Calle La Bola, were flooded, as the drainage infrastructure failed to cope. Around the Serranía low-lying villages such as Benaoján Estación, Jimera de Líbar Estación, La Cañada del Real Tesoro and El Colmenar were severely flooded and some houses wrecked.

As this was deemed an act of God, the insurance companies were off the hook and the consorcio, a government–backed bailout scheme/emergency fund, paid for by us through a levy on our insurance premiums, stepped in. For example the 800€ damage to my car was paid for by the consorcio.

This fund also picked up the tab for the damage wreaked in our garden, viz fallen trees, a wrecked fence, and a pebbled area that was washed away. Amazingly not a drop of water entered our house, although neighbours did suffer a little water ingress.

January 2021

“Here comes the rain again!”

We are currently experiencing a period of rainfall, but fortunately, toca madera (touch wood) it doesn’t seem to be the damaging kind. Given the amount of dry weather in recent years, the water is definitely welcome for the farmers and in order to top up our rather empty reservoirs.

But, don’t ever let anyone tell you that the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain. It clearly does not!

Paul Whitelock

About Paul Whitelock

Paul Whitelock is a retired former languages teacher, school inspector and translator, who emigrated to the Serranía de Ronda in 2008, where he lives with his second wife, Rita, and his dog, Berti. He spends his time between Montejaque and Ronda doing DIY, gardening and writing.