San Juan de las Abadesas
I was in charge of a seized farm in San Juan de las Abadesas (Gerona).

An old friend who was secretary to one of the many branches of the General Workers Union, suggested that I go and see some people who were running poultry farms in the area. When I found them I was delighted to discover that several were old friends from my Royal poultry School days.

I asked if a could join their union and was duly enrolled without any problem. I become the manager of a farm they’d taken over at Sant Joan de les Abadesses in northern Catalonia. I accepted with alacrity for it was a long way from Barcelona and only about twenty-two miles from the French border.

My family had all been scattered by the civil war, so there was no one to whom to say good-bye.

Upon arrival at Sant Joan, I reported to the municipal council and nobody seemed to mind that I had no proper identity papers.

Crossing to France

It was a very easy life: I lived in the local hotel, I was paid regularly and found the work undemanding for there were less than a thousand beaks to look after.

Every afternoon I walked to Ripoll and back, a round trip of about thirteen miles, in order to get fit, for I was planning to cross into France. One Sunday I went even further; rising at the crack of dawn I climbed to the top of Mount Puigmal, from where I could see the “promised land”. Then I set off at a brisk pace down to Ribes de Freser, on to Ripoll and back to Sant Joan by sunset, about forty miles.

A few days after my mammoth walk, I heard that a fairly large expedition had been intercepted while trying to cross the border illegally with the help of some guides., some had been arrested, others wounded and several killed. As a result, the border guards had been strengthened.

I was now afraid to cross over by myself.

The poultry farm was not a success. My relation with the local councillors grew increasingly acrimonious and I handed in my resignation.

I was now determined to cross over to the other side, for I naïvely thought that once amongst the Nationalists, I would be left alone to live my own life.