In Practice, Presentation on December 20, 2012 at 7:22 pm
It’s Saturday afternoon and I get a text from L, our friend and language intercambio, to arrange some coffee and cake the following afternoon. I will meet him at the mudejar arch that leads to the old town and we’ll pick up some pastries before coming back to our place and “gowering into them”, as they say in my neck of the woods. I can’t vouch for the spelling.
A little while later though I get another text. L has just heard that there will be a traditional matanza down at the alameda earlier in the day. The reader may need some help with terms. Alameda translates as mall or avenue and just about every Spanish town has one – Tarifa’s (and I may be biased) is particularly handsome as it hugs the city walls, lined with stately palms and comparatively high-end restaurants. Parents take their young children there to stop off at the tiny playground on their Sunday paseo and little markets are often set up. There’s a book stall and a kiosk for the whale-watching excursions.
I’m still on a learning curve about the country we live in so whenever anyone slips the word ‘traditional’ in, I’m interested. I text L that, of course, we’ll meet him at the top of the alameda at one, More
In Practice on December 14, 2012 at 12:11 pm
The Plaza de San Francisco is one of Seville’s most regal, lined as it is with the facades of the Audiencia, the Ayuntamiento and the Adriatica’s curved corner, not to mention the terrace of balconied, 18th century town houses that would have accommodated the great and the good – chief benefactors of the city’s waning golden age. It’s one of those spots in Andalucia’s capital where you can stop for a moment, raise your nose in the air – otherwise scented with oranges or their blossoms – and still catch the reek of all the money that came pouring into this town, off the backs of South American slave miners for the most part, I would have thought.
Dark history aside, it’s a beautiful place, and rarely dark in this day and age. On the contrary, the plaza is sunny and colourful, a venue for everything from Christmas markets to Easter processions. At a distance from its southeastern corner, but tall enough to preside over it, is the Giralda – Seville Cathedral’s bell tower, symbol of Spain and former minaret, topped now with a 16th century addition: the belfry. People forget that the Moors built skyscrapers. The Almohads in particular – they erected the Giralda as well as its sister tower in Rabat in their native Morocco, both of them modelled on the Koutoubia minaret in Marrakesh. More
In Practice on December 4, 2012 at 9:47 am
The first sip.
O’Hara’s Red Ale is an expensive treat here in Spain but then it was never that cheap in Ireland. Not easy to find in either country but today I’m in my favourite Seville cervecería, in the Arenal neighbourhood that curves around the bullring, and it’s third time lucky; on my last couple of visits they had run out. I was beginning to think the entry on their beer list was a bare-faced lie.
I deserve this.
I may never have deserved a sip of beer the way I deserve this sip of beer. We had to cancel a previously planned visit to the city due to a bout of flu, so we’ve been looking forward to this occasion with particular enthusiasm and a degree of impatience.
Last night, while I popped out to the shop, K turned the oven on and the house blacked out. You turn your back for five minutes. She naturally concluded that the two events were connected but when I returned, opening the front door to find her lighting candles with her miner-style LED headband (bought for camping purposes)on, I checked the breakers inside the front door and everything looked tickety-boo. More
In Plenary, Practice on November 27, 2012 at 11:11 am
Hercules is a name that will strike a heroic note in the modern mind, by and large. Heracles, for the pedants. Strength, courage, indefatigability, perseverance, all that stuff. He murdered his wife and children, which on the surface of it might have precluded hero status, but we seem to have forgiven him.
Perhaps we’ve done so because of the penance he made. Apparently quite upset with himself over the wife-and-child thing, our hero prayed to Apollo, who gave him an out. He was sentenced to twelve years in the service of Eurystheus, King of Mycenae, who put him to work on twelve labours – feats so incredibly difficult they were deemed impossible .
Hercules had Hermes and Athena on his side but even so, by the time he had faced and conquered the Nemean Lion, the Lernean Hydra, the Cerynitian Hind, the Erymanthian Boar, the Stables of Augeas, the Stymphalian Birds, the Cretan Bulls, the Mares of Diomedes, the Belt of Hippolyte, the Cattle of Geryon , the Apples of Hesperides and the Hound of Hades , our man was well and truly rehabilitated in the mythology of ancient Greece, and subsequently Rome and finally, of course, our own mythologies, burnished to a modern sheen More
In Practice, Production on October 23, 2012 at 9:56 am
Cork oaks have an ancient look to them – their soft, springy bark is grey and deeply wrinkled, their trunks a contortion of twists, adorned with moss in fizzing greens and lichens in porcelain shades of washed out blue-green, green-blue and jade.
I can’t always persuade K to come walking with me, and indeed I haven’t been out for a while myself, but I’ve spent too much time in the house this week and have come down with cabin fever, so here we are, walking up a rough road into the cork forests that overlook the Strait.
We’ve been to the visitor centre for the national park that surrounds us – two national parks in fact – and a nice lady has sold us a cute little pack that contains sixteen maps. The morning has been rainy but the clouds have cleared a little and the sky is pocked with blue patches as we tackle the first of them, the sun bursting through to dapple the world in moving circles of light.
It has helped my mood not one whit that we’ve spent the last hour in an enormous supermarket getting the weekly shopping done, me following K around like a sulking child, she eventually giving up on any notion of deploying my fetching capabilities.
Her: Could you please get a box of tagliatelli? More
In Practice, Presentation on September 26, 2012 at 9:58 am
There is something about returning home from a road trip that circumvents the end-of-odyssey blues I normally feel when I complete a journey: that little sadness as I turn the key in the door, the funereal quiet as I wake up that first morning in my own bed. I often see myself as leaving behind those things that excite me – adventure, stimulation, discovery – and coming back to the mundane, the daily run of banal challenges, the schlepp. Today though, the feeling is different: one of accomplishment and gladness to be back. Indeed, after two weeks of continuous road travel a couple of personal limits have been reached, at least for us.
Firstly, we’ve been noticing for the last day or three that our capacity to get excited about yet another city/mountain/castle/cathedral/restaurant or beach is flagging. We’re full up – we need time to absorb what we’ve seen (so much!), not more stuff to see. It becomes just that after a while: stuff.
Secondly, if I have to spend one more day in a Kia Picanto I think I’m going to have an embolism. Don’t get me wrong – we love Polly. She’s ours. She’s done us proud – up mountains and down, along motorways and country lanes. But she’s small. She’s very small More
In Practice, Production on September 14, 2012 at 2:43 pm
There’s no answer.
A part of me is sure this is the place. I directed us here from the passenger seat without hesitation, once we figured out how to get off the highway that hadn’t been here last time and took the tiny road up. I remembered it all – that the road bore to the left as it rose and then curved into the lower edge of the mountain village, then another swing left and, soon after, this big brown gate on the right, of stately design in a grand stone wall. A worn crest carved above it.
Behind the wall and to our left a more modern house in bare brickwork confuses me. The old house is hidden from our sight, so another part of me is thrown – the bricks of the “new” house were bare thirty-two years ago when I was last here. Surely it would have been finished – rendered – by now? Could it be the house I knew?
No answer. I begin to doubt myself and we wander uphill to see if I can recognize anything else, and to see if I can find somebody to ask. At the top of the road we meet an ancient woman carrying some logs in a bucket as she emerges from the darkness of her apparently electricity-free house. Surely it can’t be in this day and age? Maybe she’s just thrifty. More
In Practice, Presentation on September 5, 2012 at 11:02 am
The sun is coming up and has risen high enough to spear a shaft of honey light from right to left, tinting the ridge across the valley along its length like a hot blade, and giving us some idea of the compass points in this mess of mountains.
Three valleys, in fact, are visible from our high vantage point: to our left all three converge on the little town of La Vega, far below us. The ridge is called El Angliru – a long mountain that fills our field of vision. Its upper reaches, the knife’s edge, are stony and serrated – wild highlands. The slopes below, as in the other valleys, are green and cultivated – forested here and there, and elsewhere divided by hedgerows and fences into small fields, some of them on almost sheer gradients.
We watch the moving sunlight play with shadows. It’s silent here except for the bells – down in one of the valleys an unhurried and beguiling melody is chiming out from a church, behind us the closer tinkle of cowbells as some of the locals – butter coloured bovines with big brown eyes – graze.
Tiny little towns are visible on some of the higher slopes. It all looks so picturesque – old houses or barns occupy many of the fields we can see, pocking the ripples of mountainside like crumbs in the folds of a sheet, More
In Practice, Production on July 22, 2012 at 11:16 am
It’s ten in the evening, we’re down on the beach, and they are all around us.
Puppy waves doggy paddle towards the shore in a long, long line of overlapping arcs.
A dome of light on the horizon – the last remnants of the sun’s toffee orange blush.
Los Lances as it bends away towards Punta Paloma and the two headlands up there, the more distant one a paler grey, the closer blacker, both their bends reflected in the mirror water that floods the beach here often.
The merest sliver of a waxing moon, exquisitely fine, like a thumbnail rip in the nylon sky.
Its delicate curl is echoed by the motor parachute that swoops up and down the beach, the pilot taking care each time he passes to leave us our space.
We stand out in the ankle depth and everything appears equidistant. Nothing farther away than anything else – Tangier just as near, and just as remote, as the chiringuito on the other side of the beached water where people are gathering in the music. More
In Practice on June 11, 2012 at 9:44 am
Remember the story about poo?
Wasn’t very popular, that one. Not so many unique visitors and what have you, and a shame it was too because the story was nothing if not unique. Sort of explored the blurred boundary between aversion-to-poo and aversion-to-stories-about-poo. Well, this is the follow up, but before you click off, it isn’t about poo.
No, this one’s about pain.
Do try to remember that. It’s about pain. It isn’t pain itself. It can’t hurt you.
It’s about the kind of pain that makes your head feel as if it will snap in two, any second now, under the strain. Probing, living pain that hates you, pounding away at you, grinding away and having a lovely time of it, hurting you and, when it feels as though it hasn’t got quite enough of your attention for a moment, stabbing you, and then carrying on with the grinding.
I’ve been on the sofa for four days, hunched. To K, now, I am merely a curved back. A lumbering mass of need and inutility; in a way I’m surprised she’s noticed.
I am full to capacity with painkillers, antibiotics and wine. More