Juliette de Bairacli-Levy
There blossomed also by the mill streams, white
may, and on the near grey rocks a sweet variety of wild lavender.
With these flowers came the nightingales. Not a mere one or
two birds as in most parts of Europe, but a multitude, so
that one seemed to sing in every bush. Oh the wild piping
of them! by day and by night, though on the Sierra Nevada
they sang mostly by day, for the nights stayed cold that May
month. Concerning the nightingales the peasants again spoke
beautifully: 'The ruisenors have pearls and corals
in their throats.'
The sun of the day had become very hot by May,
and the flies bred rapidly. Those swarming flies! The curse
of Lanjaron; carriers of disease including the dread typhus
fever. The flies are few around Granada, but all upon Lanjaron
they swarmed and even reached up into the high sierra above
the town and far around to plague the people there on the
remote farms. Many persons who came to drink the waters of
the medicinal springs went away because of the flies. If the
typhus fever had not kept me in Lanjaron I believe that I
too would have fled from that insect plague.
The abundance of those flies is difficult to
describe: I have only met with a near likeness around the
town of Houmpt Souk on the island of Djerba, where they bred
in thousands upon the open cesspits. In Lanjaron there were
also most unsanitary conditions away from the clean part of
the town where were the hotels for the visitors to the mineral
springs: for that part was very clean and cool and well-kept.
For the rest, the children piled their excreta in the back
streets and then the sierra animals which came nightly into
the town further fed the flies.
I well recall two unpleasant things of the mountain
town. The square opposite the inn where I first lived and
where I used to see the unsanitary and miserable life of the
very poor: such as the children shut out in the streets by
drunken parents, and women picking from one another's heads
the lice and the nits which seemingly teemed there. The other
was a huge sow kept in the basement of a house in conditions
of indescribable dirt, so that the entire house smelt of the
pig. The animal itself was memorable for the black coat that
it wore over-all-a cloak of flies! so that except for snout
and tail there was scarcely a centimetre of its grey-white
body to be seen.
In the main street of the town the flies lay
on roadway and pavement like black treacle, and likewise they
gathered upon the walls of the houses and shops. The wares
in the shops were invariably speckled black with fly excreta,
fruit to crockery, lengths of dress material to bread, all
habitually bore the dirt imprints of the flies. It is difficult
to wash fruit clean of such contamination without spoiling
and losing most of the flavour. Therefore whenever possible
I bought my fruit direct from the sierra farms, or asked the
shop-keepers to sell me fruit only from the lower areas of
the boxes and baskets, in which parts the flies had not had
entry. It was impossible to open one's doors or windows by
day; only late into the night until soon after dawn dare one
To defy this rule of Lanjaron was to ensure
the entry of a black hissing fly swarm into one's house, soiling
everything, falling into water-jugs and milk, and at night-time
descending upon the beds to crawl over the faces of the sleepers.
They had the same fly habits as those of Arab lands, they
liked to be upon the human body. Favourite places were the
corners of the eyes and mouths of children from which they
sucked moisture and at the same time left bacteria of disease.
It was very general in Lanjaron to see babies' faces speckled
with fly excreta.
The people nearly all possessed fly-swishes,
which the gypsies made and sold: a stout cane on to the top
of which was wired a head of coloured paper streamers. With
this weapon one swished the flies out of one's home and back
into the streets, and also away from one's‚ body. But
the fly swishing was not so easy so far as the house rooms
were concerned. Through the opened door one beat out the black
hordes, but a large percentage of the enemy went into hiding!
As soon as the door was closed, out of their
hiding places, beneath beds and in wall niches, they came,
and danced in triumph before one's angry eyes! What happened
with those flies in the water-mill during the three weeks
of typhus fever when I was half-insane and entirely unable
to defend my room and my children against the hordes, I shall
never know. There were vast swarms of flies habitually around
the mill. The fruit trees were blamed, the water, the flour
in the mill, but in truth the dirt of the place was much responsible.
The mill family never seemed to notice the flies at all. They
would sit placidly eating their meals, their faces, hands
and clothes black-plastered with flies; also equally plastered
was the food that they ate!
here for another excerpt from Juliette's Nature's Children,
"treatment of fevers"
“In Memory of Juliette the Grandmother of Herbal medicine”
Spanish Mountain Life
Author: Juliette de Bairacli Levy.
This jewel-like memoir by noted herbalist and traveler Juliette de Bairacli Levy details her personal struggle against typhus fever, during which she gave birth to her second child, Luz, who had to be suckled by a nanny goat. As ever we are embraced by Juliette's love of nature and animals, and welcomed onlookers as she relates with people whose lives are far different from ours. 114 pages,
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