Always fighting the last war


I’ve heard of a saying in military circles that generals are always fighting the last war, meaning they’re focused on the strategies and tactics of the last conflict, which may no longer be relevant for the present and future.

For my part, I always seem to be furnishing the last apartment.

Our first year in Spain now seems a long time ago, but I remember that there were quite a few things we lacked, and that we did a certain amount of scrounging and inventing. The second year the apartment (called a piso, the Castellano word for floor) that El Guapo rented had almost no pillows.


When I came in the second wave, I brought some travel-sized pillows along. We stashed them here in storage, and of course the next year’s apartment had pillows galore. What it entirely lacked was butter knives. There was not a single one.

I’m reluctant to buy housewares here that have to be stored or given away, but one has got to have a butter knife, at least the way we operate, so I broke down and bought one. And then, as so often happens to folks willing to take hand-me-downs, a windfall came our way.

I don’t recall exactly how there happened to be a stash of flatware looking for a new home–maybe some sort of event at the school for which supplies were purchased, used, and then no longer needed, but El Guapo came home with a tidy collection. We felt we were all set, and we squirreled them away at the end of the season. They helped me to feel secure in the knowledge that we would have what we needed.

The stash that prevents me from feeling butter-knife-insecure

The stash that prevents me from feeling butter-knife-insecure. A few of them even match.

Inevitably, the next war, er, piso, was bound to be lacking in something else. In our current place we found a modest amount of flatware, but absolutely no dishes or cookware of any kind. We’re fortunate that the realtor was willing to have us make a few purchases (to add to the oven we also had to buy), so that while we’re not plentifully supplied, we can manage.

When it comes down to it, I can see how fighting the last war or furnishing the last piso has its limitations, but given that we never know where we’ll be until we get there, how, we wonder, would we prepare to fight/furnish the next one?


[Images:,, yours truly]



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