beyondtheduero

Robledillo de Trujillo

Trujillo was the preferred location of the first property agent I saw in Extremadura
He flew around the hills of the Sierra de Montanchez on a quad bike, wearing a woolen beanie, and told me, ‘Tim!… Trujillo is the place I’d live if I had the choice’
Naturally
He was showing me a house in Robledillo de Trujillo fifteen kilometers away but would rather I bought in Trujillo where the prices were double
I appreciated his taste but didn’t have the money

After a few days we parted company the houses too small, too run-down and too expensive; but it would have been unfair for this to have affected my opinion of Cáceres, the province, often more picturesque than Badajoz

86

Most of the countryside is scrubbed and bouldered, like moorland
The rocks like erupted bubbles of lava, scattered across the landscape; craggy terrain and poor soil; more suited to tourism than agriculture

The more fertile hills of the Sierra de Montanchez fold in on themselves, and in Spring are full of poppies, broom, heather and encinas
A panoply of colour
And when they flatten to dehesa the encinas are full and well formed within fields of grasses and meadow flowers, cropped like bowling greens by itinerant sheep and goats

Robledillo has a population of five hundred and a grotesque fountain
Victoria herself, said as much as I stood in the Plaza España taking photographs of it
She assumed that people only take photographs of beautiful things and directed, more than invited, me to see the more sophisticated parts of the pueblo

1214

10

 

I tried to agree with her but she wouldn’t pause to listen
Though the concept of taking photographs of something one dislikes may have been difficult for her to understand, or accept, such was her seemingly indefatigable belief in the proprieties of life

However, she was a charming lady who understood my annoyance of a lost photographic opportunity whilst I dutifully listened to her
The grey clouds had momentarily parted, with apparent divine intervention, to halo-light the cross above the body of the church
She excused herself and made her departure, if a little too late

The ayuntamiento too, is a strange post-modern confection of angles and curves
The effort  and investment were well intentioned but such a self conscious building sits uneasily in the village

Nonetheless, the house was solid with an unusually wide, arched, entrance
The church had an imposing simplicity, and parts of the village had been sympathetically restored
And there were two more aspects that attracted me

222117

Firstly, it had Trujillo in its name, and with self-inflicted disingenuity I could imagine I lived in Trujillo
Secondly, I drunk the best beer ever pulled, in a bar behind the Plaza España
It may have been the particular moment: it was around three in the afternoon, it was about forty degrees and I’d been walking around the village for nearly two hours

It struck me that within  half-an-hour, everyone in the village had knowledge of my business
When I reached the bar I could easily have agreed to buy half the village
Every other person I met had a house to sell me

151618 19

Meanwhile, the beer arrived on the bar in front of me, I could sense the frigidity; a layer of frost condensed on the glass, small shards of ice floated throughout the liquid
At the same moment I put it to my mouth, it was gone
I could have drunk more, it was a genial place, but it would have lessened the perfection of the first glass; I paid and went back to the Plaza España to see one last time if I could live with the fountain

To be fair the house mitigated the fountain, but seemed to be the telegraph pole for the village
Cables came from every direction: thin thick, twisted, supported on catenary wires and unsupported

One’s a hostage to fortune buying a house in Spain
With luck there will be two modest black cables running across the front of the house, capable of being hidden behind a gutter or beneath the eaves
Unfortunately, this isn’t often the case
Casa Mateos had not been treated kindly by the planners at the ayuntamiento

It was owned by a famous Spanish actor, who I’d never heard of, but the citizens of the village had honoured Julian Mateos with a plaque mounted on the house, just above a large knot of cables

En esta casa vivió Julian Mateos (1938 – 1996), actor, internacional hombrado, hijo predilecto de Robledillo de Trujillo por la corporación municipal en agosto de 1998

232527
4

I believe Mateos lived in Madrid and I imagined this may have been his childhood home; it only had six rooms so it wasn’t a large house or a big family

But it was impossible to see Mateos‘ life from the house; all that remained was an old cooker, some beige vinyl chairs with tubular metal legs and some old tools under the roof
The house didn’t have the spirit of thespian parties or family gatherings, Mateos had been dead for nearly ten years and the ghosts had died with him; it was utterly empty

Mateos played in Return of the Seven with Yul Brynner but also mixed grease paint with Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot in Shalako
I recognized his photograph; good-looking and distinguished he’d died young from lung cancer

He studied philosophy at Salamanca University; didn’t finish the course, and more appropriate to his later career studied at the Escuela Superior de Arte Dramatico in Barcelona

His film credits, apart from Return of the Seven and Shalako include: Catlow, the hotel porter in Adam & Eve an erotic drama, Four Rode Out and with his production company Ganesh Producciones Cinematográficas, El Niño de la Luna, with the following synopsis

Adopted by a treacherous semi-scientific cult where extraordinary mental powers are common, extraordinary 12 year old David begins an archetypal journey across two continents to find his destiny as Child of the Moon
Despite this description the film and its music, by Dead Can Dance, were highly regarded

My feelings for the fountain softened at the thought of buying a film stars house
Accepted; Robledillo was no Beverley Hills, Santa Monica or Pacific Palisades

3128
322933

On the ground floor, the chipped enamel cooker with four gas burners was scrupulously clean as too the worn vinyl chairs, with foam stuffing that had lost its elasticity  from many years of the Mateos family use

The upper floor was uninhabited; too cold in winter, too hot in summer
Some erudite extremeños will say that the extremes of weather give the province the name Extremadura
Extremely hard would appear to be a natural translation of Extremadura
Yet as cold and hot as the winters and summers maybe, Extremadura translates as the land beyond the Duero river
Though what way beyond, north or south, I’m not sure
I suppose that would depend on whether you were a Moor or Christian

So like all extremeños houses, they lived on the ground floor entombed in stone; insulated from either the heat or cold, whatever the season
Whilst the upper floor was formed from adobe, topped with an uninsulated roof of tejas curvas, supported on timber boards and eucalyptus beams

The ground floor bovedas, with their bulk of masonry, were impressive and regulated temperatures
They also gave an unexpected nobility to the most modest of extremeños houses, such as Casa Mateos
However, caught between chilling winters and searing summers they were sometimes compromised and fall short in the height of summer or the depth of winter

Yet strangely, and slightly unsettling, bovedas never seem to be keyed into their four surrounding walls
If they fall within a ruined house the walls that bound them are relatively smooth, only an arc of the plaster remains, tracing out the curves of the boveda, now a ghost of its former self
Friction and faith would not be enough to keep them from falling
There’s certainly a construction technique that allows them to defy gravity, and when I find it, my unease as I sit beneath them will be assuaged

343635
37

The long, open upper floor was used for storing grains and animal feed, though no sign of these remained, and was probably a home for mice given the ready availability of food and bedding
Here the mice ran above your head and not beneath your feet

Therefore, it was essential that every house had a cat
Though not over indulged, pampered and fit only for the lap
They had to work for their living by killing the mice and often were not seen for a day or two whilst they went about their business
They slept in the garage or outbuilding; their food was what they caught

Casa Mateos was looked over by two elegant cream cats, though their fur was slightly matted they were far from feral
But despite a look of insouciance there was something of a savage look in their eyes
They looked at me with indifference and at times stared straight through me, their heads fixed to a far point in the distance

They sat together sentrying Casa Mateos in a stone niche facing it; once a window of a now ruined house

Yet the best feature of the house was certainly not the two cats
At the end of the upper floor; french windows, opened onto a stone carved balcony with a view of Plaza Mateos, the two cats, the charming church and high voltage cables just above my head

It made it onto the short list, but in the end celebrity and cold beer weren’t enough

photography and text by Tim Harris
This entry was published on April 16, 2016 at 6:30 pm. It’s filed under Extremadura, Spain, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: