One stop down the motorway towards the Costa Tropical, is the village of Tablate. It has been abandoned since around 1990, although it was hardly a sprawling metropolis before then. The maximum number of inhabitants in its long history was four hundred, I believe.
It has the misfortune to be the nearest village to the Nazari bridge giving access to the Alpujarras, and consequently a hotspot for battles to control that chokepoint. The last major battle between the Moors expelled from Granada by the Christians in around 1571 occurred here after which those Moors which had been living in the Alpujarras after being thrown out of Granada, were again expelled, this time back to Morocco.
Last week wasn’t the first time I have visited Tablate. It is not obvious there is a village here and most people pass by without realising that the track winding up into the hillside leads to a village, except for the church spire rising above the undergrowth. I don’t know why I went there this time, time on my hands or something in my subconscious. Whatever it was, it brought on a great sense of melancholy which lasted a day or two.
The village, small by comparison to most villages, is mainly derelict houses and agricultural buildings. It was the church, the bricked up doorway smashed open, which brought me down inside there was scene of dereliction and wanton damage. The frescoes on the walls behind the desecrated altar were covered in graffiti, the mezzanine over the entrance door was sunken and in danger of collapse and the vestry furniture has been smashed and upturned.
I don’t know why I was so moved by this. I have seen more than enough desecrated churches, mosques, synagogues, shrines and temples in my lifetime. The latter were the aftermath of wars and conflicts when religious frenzy had led to a desire to destroy all traces of the enemy’s religion. Some chance, you are never going to squash belief.
But as the village was functioning until 1990 it is most likely that the damage was done by local youngsters. The graffiti tends to suggest that, a lot of it is just macho stuff, there’s no real religious motive behind it, but it is disturbing. I have seen how this type of thing can quickly grow out of control and lead to violence.
The rest of the village is in a sad state of disrepair. There is not a roof on any of the buildings that has not collapsed to some extent and most of the windows and doors have been stolen. The five palm trees that once stood proud are not denuded and blackened. For my old Military friends who served with me in Cyprus, think Paramali.
I am now thirteen days into lockdown due to the coronavirus. Writing like this reflects my mood and yet putting things down in writing gets the melancholia out of my system.
Try it yourself if you too are going stir-crazy.