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El Fuero Interno

In Plenary, Production, Uncategorized on August 3, 2014 at 5:59 pm

El Fuero InternoIt’s bright and on the inside of my sunglasses, the lenses are dappled with droplets of sweat. I am running away from the island I have shared with you, on the straight causeway that connects it to the coast: a brilliant, broiling Atlantic void on my left and the great, grand Strait on my right – that tuna-stuffed Styx, the dazzling blue Rubicon that made this, to the ancients, the ultimate dividing line: the edge of the world, the coast of everything.

Tarifa wobbles in the drops – little playa chica and its No Shitting sign, the tuna sculpture,  the ludicrous but likeable outline of Santa Catalina, a derelict mansion.  I flick my head to dislodge the drops and get a better view. It’s all still here, in all its glare and glory – the ocean, the hills behind the town, the pink dome of the St Mateo church. The castle and the modern port with its rotating ferries, the tumbling roofs of the old town, the schools and the fish factory and the holiday lets further up the beach. The cargo ships that clutter up the sea lanes and the huge dune at Valdevaqueros where the kite surfers congregate.

I’ve done a couple of kilometres and I’ll give it another couple. Then I’ll go home. I’m running so that I might stay alive a little longer and live a little better while I’m at it. Keep the blood pumping and the pump strong. I’m running so that I can write, running to get endorphins flowing and synapses firing. More

Las Instantáneas

In Presentation, Uncategorized on June 2, 2014 at 8:42 am

Las Instantáneas

“The man is out there again”.

She means the man who walks his dogs behind our house each day, in the morning or early afternoon. She has told me about him on a number of occasions but for whatever reason I only saw him myself for the first time a few days ago. I stand on the patio bench and peer through the grille of the upper wall. Two leads for two small dogs who trot along peaceably, pausing here and there, as dogs do, to sniff or mark a pole, and always, alongside them or just behind and keeping them company all the way with perfect, leash-free discipline, a tabby cat.

                                                                           *

A white horse in the long grass that backs the beach. It would take a master to paint the scene above it; the hazy veil of a dirt grey horizon thins low in the sky, revealing a creamy ripple of higher cloud that expands as it arches overhead – little tufts pulled apart like the fibres of a cotton wool roll, white as the animal grazing. When I pass by again, some minutes later, the scene is gone, the clouds stage left as if dragged there by jaded stage hands. The show is over. It rains heavily the following morning and afterwards the horse isn’t even a horse, but a white yacht gleaming in a spot of sunlight against a charcoal waterline. More

El Contenido

In Uncategorized on November 28, 2013 at 8:23 am

El Contenido

Writing is a question of motive, reading the same. It’s important to know why you’re doing it.

I can tell you why I write: it’s because I love the world as much as I hate it. Because I know it’s all I’ve got. Because a place can fill me up till I can’t breathe any more, pouring its stories into me like intoxicants. I can feel them in me, making me woozy even if I can’t always make them out, even when I can’t tell insight from pure imagination, or if those two things can be told apart.

I write because every time I so much as go for a walk the universe bowls me over. The daily litany of wonders: the sun, the wild Atlantic, murky Africa, the long coastal grasses and the man who won’t say hello to me even though we’ve passed each other by down at the water a thousand times. The litany of wonders and how it grinds. How it rubs raw.

I write because I won’t live for long. Because I’m a fucking mayfly and it makes me angry. It makes me grateful too. I write from the gratitude and I write from the anger. I write because I want to give you something and I write because I want something from you. I want your touch, like a cheap song; I want your breath on my neck. I write to make music of the noise, to make a noise in the dreadful silence, to find a silence in the roar. That is why I write.

Why do I read? See above. More

El Incendio

In Plenary, Uncategorized on September 20, 2013 at 8:11 am

El Incendio

Filthy smoke obscures the coastline as I pass through Pelayo, Spain’s wettest village they say and the last stop before I get off the bus for work. It’s a mountain village above Algeciras, surrounded by beautiful Parque Natural – pines and cork oaks and rocky arroyos that spill down towards the sea. From Pelayo you can see both pillars of Hercules, one on either side of the Strait, or you can when the humid little pueblo isn’t shrouded in mist, which is most of the time.

Today though the fog has been replaced by the skyward plumes of dirty smoke on an otherwise clear day. Another long, dry summer is coming to an end and the crackling, brittle ground is burning. The brown cloud is drifting toward Getares, a suburb of the port, rising from a line of fire on the hills closest to the coast, maybe a kilometre from the road. Southern Spain is accustomed to wildfire and the authorities do not fuck around – the sky is loud and busy with helicopters that to and fro from a flooded quarry closer to town, huge and heavy water bags swinging from their bellies.

It’s quite something to see how much water those things hold – they release it slowly rather than all at once, making wet contrails for some distance before the bag is spent and the helicopter returns to the quarry. On the one hand, the quick and thorough response of the emergency services is testament to human ingenuity; how clever and conscientious we are, with our airborne water-carriers and our fire engines, our busy heroes working hard to save the day! More

Between Pints

In Uncategorized on May 13, 2012 at 2:06 pm

The River Liffey describes a bowed shape through the centre of Dublin city – almost a straight line but not quite. Dark water divides the north of the city from the south as it widens towards the port and the Irish Sea.

None of the bridges that span it – Sean Heuston, Rory O’More, James Joyce, Father Matthew, Samuel Beckett – can dilute the divisive power of the thing. For many generations now the blue collar inhabitants of the northside have considered their Dublin a different place to the leafy, Georgian southside. The city is founded on the river, and cursed by it.

They pulled a body out of the water this week that used to belong to a friend of mine. I have been crying with K, who loved him too. We are far away. We are no help, no comfort to his family. We cannot squeeze more tears from our mutual friends. We are no help.

We sit and squeeze each other, and the tears come.

The heart is a busy organ – and very serious – when bereaved. Remembering is difficult work; our emotional mechanisms shift up a gear and we bend inward with the strain – replaying the scenes, mouthing the words, laughing the laughs. More

Frio

In Uncategorized on February 19, 2012 at 4:11 pm

January and February. The eleventh and twelfth most popular months of the year, in no particular order.

It’s been a schlepp. The year has begun with some important changes for us, but what a schlepp. Up to our necks in boxes, budgeting and assorted banalities. Also, bunny replacements. We’re just getting over it now – lifting our heads and looking towards the horizon again, the year ahead.

Mentalities opening out like spring blossoms.

The cold hasn’t helped. Siberians – why can’t they keep their weather to themselves? We’ve been cold down here at the southernmost point of mainland Europe for weeks. Process that for a minute. Southernmost point. Cold.

Of course when I explain to our cousins in the north that we’re getting daytime highs of 13, 14 and 15 degrees the sympathy is limited. Those are just the highs though – our lows have been low and the houses down here are built to refridgerate, so when it’s 6 degrees outside, it’s 5 degrees in the living room.

For fahrenheit people, simply take the celsius figure and dip it in hot water, leave to dry naturally at room temperature for two hours and then soak again overnight, More

Ventanas

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2011 at 11:52 am

When we wake our small window is an uninformative opaque screen of condensation. It gradually clarifies to reveal the very narrow lane where we live and the one shaft of sunlight that reaches in at that hour of the morning. The misted glass clears at the same rate as my morning head and without the aid of a coffee.

On mornings when the sunlight is there and when a craned neck reveals blue sky it seems a shame to be headed to Algeciras for work. Sad to be leaving all the prettiness behind for a day in the industrial sprawl.

I’ve heard Algeciras described as a scruffy port town, a nothing, a bore and in one instance – in a national British broadsheet no less – as a dreadful place. It is a salty port city that is pretty much as far down as you can get in Europe without leaving. Only the villages of Pelayo, El Cuartõn and the town of Tarifa are further south and then only by a few kilometres. It’s also pretty much as far down the scale as you can get in terms of attractions and, some would say, attractiveness. More

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