Soria, Spain, 1979

Town of churches and storks’ nests on church towers,

where the living is hard, the work is harder,

and the weather is harder still.

Where small men and huge tractors grow wheat in hedgeless fields that meet the sky.

Where the brown River Duero rests on its lazy way to Portugal.

Where the men’s faces are brown from the wind and rough from the snow and the sun.

Where the women walk like the waving wheat in the fields where the men work bent all day.

Where, in the street called Mercy, prodigal in old stones, the monastery where Tirso wrote and ate and slept is gently falling to earth, beam by beam, and no one cares.

Where the square is beautiful with a palace and a church.

Where the fiestas come in September and then the heat goes, and the cold comes.

Where sculpted stone in San Miguel honours Thomas a Becket, a piece of Kent blown here to Castille.

Where the palace of old stone facades has half its windows boarded up and stands wasted by the square. Once it housed the monarchs of Castille: now two old ladies live on in three dusty rooms.

Where on every side, if you climb the Cinto to see, in the wind or the cold or the heat, the fields stretch away as far as the clouds.

Where the bars are busy with beer and coffee, and sweet egg yolks are sold in shops and small hard biscuits known as patience.

Where life and work go on round the clock

that stands in the tower and looks down on the square,

through the hot days and the cold nights of the Sorian year,

in Almazán.