The chemists in Ituren
I was a little concerned when Josetxo (who runs the chemists in Ituren) said he would leave the pills I had ordered hanging on the outside handle of the chemist door in case I dropped by after he headed off for his evening run.
Going to the chemists sometimes needs a bit of courage, even in your own language, (those who have had to resort to miming techniques in foreign chemists will know exactly what I mean). These matters can be of a somewhat delicate nature. And even more so when the guy who runs the chemists in Ituren lives so close to home. Josetxo runs our village chemists in Ituren, he is the guy you meet over the Sunday aperitif at the village bar, or teem up with to watch carnivals – a formal acquaintance with just a little too much intimate knowledge to make light conversation feel comfortable. (Thank God my gynaecologist is in Elizondo). But when he says he will leave your prescription dangling on the outside door knob of the chemists for the world to see – I don’t quite know how to react. I think that is going a little too far, although apparently it is common practice for the chemists in Ituren!
The postwoman in Ituren
I am used to these informal delivery channels and, on the whole, they tend to be pretty reliable although not particularly discreet. On the few occasions that the post woman ventures up to our mountain hamlet of Ameztia, (which lies about 4km up from Ituren village square), she leaves our post at the first farm (Zubialdea) before sprinting back down the mountain to safety. Once upon a time a post woman did venture as far out as our farmhouse, but apparently she slipped on our muddy drive, almost broke a leg (most probably got circled by a pack of wolves and growled at by the only existing bear in the Pyrenees etc. etc. ) and from then on anything beyond Zubialdea was deemed Comanche territory – as far as the post office was concerned at least.
The bar in Ituren
The next important depot is with Carlos, the owner of the village bar (Ostatua) in Ituren (which lies just beneath the village school). I am sure this is quite natural in most small villages. In Ituren, if in doubt, go to Carlos! We all leave packets and parcels there for friends, pin up fiesta tickets beneath the Vermouths and Patxarrans, and even the odd envelope of cash for an electrician or plumber to pick up on their way through town. As the village lost property depot, it is not uncommon to find kid’s jackets and bags stuffed in behind the Jack Daniels.
The petrol station in Doneztebe
However, when things are mislaid further afield, Juanjo’s petrol station in Doneztebe has been designated as the main lost property depot for the valley. If you find a purse along the roadside, a mobile phone or a bunch of keys outside town, leave it with Juanjo at the ‘gasolinera’. Everyone in the area has a car and as there is only one gas station in the valley, at some time or other, everybody fills up their car at Juanjo’s pumps! Of course Juanjo therefore knows everyone too.
The Baztanesa bus
These are just some of the informal systems in place in our part of the valley. The local bus, the Baztanesa, used to double up as a delivery van and I know that Johan, a German baker from an isolated farmhouse in Etxalar, would often drive down to the valley floor to put a sack of loaves into the hold. The health shop owners who sold his bread further down the valley in Doneztebe and Elizondo would then pop out to greet the bus and pick up supplies.
The postwoman’s increasingly more dispersed postal system
From an anecdotal point of view this is rather quaint and a naturally pragmatic way to go about things. But it has its risks. When you find your registered deliveries of passports and credit cards in the hands of distant acquaintances in the village, just because they are genetic descendants of the family in Zubialdea, (and therefore expected to pop up the mountain for coffee at some in the following 6 months) then you start to worry. And now, as I rush back to Ituren to salvage my dignity, contained in a small plastic bag with the name GEORGINA printed on it, hanging on the main door of the chemists in Ituren for the world to see, then I worry a little bit more.
From the chemists in Ituren to the bar
Next time I head down to Ituren for a drink I will be looking around me for furtive looks and covert sniggerings. Do you think somebody had a peek inside that bag? I think the very best I can hope for is a sweaty chemist in jogging clothes and a certain twinkle in his eye.