Thursday, 11 August 2016


We woke up this morning to a haze in the air. Not mist but smoke and ash. Looking out from our balcony, Vigo was lost in a cloud. The Islas Cíes had disappeared completely. I felt quite sorry for anyone who might have booked for a boat trip to the islands today, expecting some fine views on the way. 

When I went down to the pool later, you could almost see ash suspended in the air. According to the breadshop weather witch, there have been seven forest fires at least in the area. On our way back from Pontevedra last night we could see a great pall of smoke rising up from behind Redondela. The chap who was clearing leaves off the surface of the pool this morning told me he was going to Redondela later to check on a house he has there, close to the area when the fire was. He was hopeful that the fact that nobody had contacted him with bad news meant that all was well.  Travelling to Ponters on the train this afternoon, you could see smoke rising from a number of places still. 

A fair number of the fires have been set deliberately. One of our companions in the car returning to Vigo last night declared that 99% of them are deliberate, "provocados" as they say here. I think, indeed I hope, that his estimate is rather exaggerated. What is certain is that, with everything so dry at the moment, it just needs a bit of carelessness, even just leaving a bottle behind after a picnic for the sun to shine through, and a fire can break out. 

An Australian friend told me that eucalyptus tree burn particularly fiercely. In fact spontaneous fires are almost a part of the natural life cycle of the eucalyptus. Well, that's what she said. And there are certainly plenty of eucalyptus around here. Some people would like to get rid of them as they are not at all native to the area and actually prevent growth of more native species. Unfortunately you can't burn down the eucalyptus without getting rid of the other trees as well. 

As regards the deliberate setting of fires, there is almost certainly some of that going on. Apparently you can change the use to which a piece of land can be put once the trees that prevented it from being used, for example, for construction have been removed "accidentally". But, oh, what a short-sighted way of looking at things! 

Two of Phil's chess playing mates have commented on the fact that the school where the tournament is taking place is up on the hillside, pretty well surrounded by trees. Are we safe here? they both wondered on separate occasions. Their chess playing minds must work the same way. 

And, heaven knows, it's quite hot enough here today for everything to spontaneously combust, not just the eucalyptus trees. (It's actually much hotter here than in Vigo, by about five degrees by the feel of the wall of heat that hit us as we left the train station!) I dread to think about the possible evacuation procedures. And there is an awful lot of expensive equipment in the playing room. 

The top tables are linked to internet, so that the games played there are broadcast live, a usual procedure at properly run tournaments! One of Phil's chess playing mates was a little cross yesterday to lose extremely quickly on one of those boards, not least because his "disaster" would be seen by just about anyone who mattered. 

But it's all right; he won the next two games!

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