In Presentation on September 27, 2013 at 8:05 am
The bus that I take from Tarifa to just outside Algeciras where I teach in an English academy is regular but infrequent – I’m left with over an hour to kill before I start work and I kill it in a roadside venta with a café con leche and a slow, bad-tempered netbook. Since my previous job was in the same area I’ve been a regular there now for three years and the coffee is often plonked in front of me before I’ve opened my mouth. I take it to the terrace and sit in the deafening noise of the port traffic – juggernauts and container trucks – trying to concentrate on whatever it is that day.
The neighbourhood is called Los Pastores and the one behind it, where I work, El Cobre. Neither of these places will ever feature heavily in Ideal Home or Town & Country and the latter in particular raises eyebrows when I tell people I work there; they often seem mildly surprised that I’ve lived to tell the tale. I’ve never experienced anything on my way to or from work but a few curious looks and a laid-back family feel to what is undeniably a down-at-heel barrio. I would concede though that a number of the inhabitants appear to be interesting.
I’ve written about the venta before and the tortuously slow process through which I eventually came to feel accepted and comfortable there. Nowadays it’s a fait accompli; I’m more or less treated like royalty. I’ve seen staff come and go and whenever a newbie arrives he or she is taught quick sharp that mine’s a coffee. I’ve had knowing conversations with the dueña about how the ideal olive is a cracked one with the stone in, More
In Presentation on November 16, 2012 at 9:41 am
I’m looking for purity.
Natural wholesomeness. Clean, untainted goodness. Healthy, nurturing freshness, whatever you like – you get the picture.
My search has brought me to an industrial estate just outside Tarifa – I’m walking on a cracked, ill-maintained pavement, along a rusting and dilapidated steel fence beyond which a patch of wasteland is a mess of weeds and debris. A little further up I can see a car-wash place and various noisy workshops. Trucks pass by. No sign of the goodness, as yet. I must have walked up and down every “street” in the place.
Ah, here it is: Tarifa Natural, it says over the warehouse loading dock. It doesn’t look like the kind of place I should be walking into, but I do. I’ve been directed here, by the nice women in the herbolario in the old town, and I must have walked a mile all told, so I’m going in.
I step past a forklift and somewhere at the back of the building, out of sight, someone is using a pneumatic drill. The noise is deafening and there’s no one around. I wander about and when the drill stops for a moment I yell “hola!”
In Practice, Production on December 14, 2011 at 10:48 am
The street light cuts out again.
I look up at the blinding, dotted flow of headlamps that sweep uphill from the city and pass me by; the majority of them attached to heavy goods vehicles fresh from the port. It’s noisy with their motors and hydraulics but across the street and just beyond the electrical plant a full moon – piss yellow and hanging low – illuminates the cloud above and below it; it is enormous and silent and very far from here.
On the embankment by the roundabout a whinny in the shadows. The horse is always there, tied to a stump and describing circles all day as it grazes. I feel sorry for it as I always do for horses in urban settings. Earlier though I saw its owner with it, giving it a run, and there was no bad feeling; they looked like an old couple – each knowing what the other was going to do next.
The light comes back on.
My eyes drop to the page. I’m reading novels again. This one is good even if the author has felt compelled to assign an adjective to each and every noun. It isn’t pocket sized so I need to carry it in my leather satchel; travel time is reading time these days since I spend so much of my day on the bus. I have also honed my skills at walking and reading as I saunter along between here and the school, dodging lizards and grasshoppers and the odd snail migration. More
In Practice, Production on June 22, 2011 at 7:24 am
These are the details; it slopes upward. The board. The board with the holes. The coloured holes and the one unmarked hole in between you and the coloured holes. The coloured holes you roll the wooden ball at. Somehow past the intervening large unmarked hole. Uphill.
The stupid fucking board. Uphill into the coloured holes and what then? The balls just come back. I roll them again. People are shouting. There is a man with a microphone.
I turn to K. Not easy between the physically assertive women either side of me. I plead with her. I hope that she can see the panic in my eyes.
“What is happening here?”
She responds with a flat stare. I don’t think I like how relatively relaxed she looks.
“Not sure”, she says.
Not sure. Great. I turn to the board again and apply my faculties. It slopes upward. There are coloured holes and another one that isn’t coloured. That would presumably be the bad hole. More
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
In Plenary, Production on September 26, 2010 at 11:50 am
Crédito. I have my first evening of socialising since getting here, with a colleague in Algeciras. We try out a few beers in a few bars (nice bars in Algeciras!) and then we down a bottle of red on the balcony. And then we down a bottle of white on the balcony. It means I spend a little money I don’t have but it is good to talk and get out of my solitary routine. And to get very, very drunk.
Débito. Predictably, the following day is not a pleasant experience.
Crédito. Finally move into the apartment we’ll be in for the next year, which is to say, our new home. It has been left spotlessly clean for me and there is a bidet. I’ve never had a bidet. More
In Plenary on August 20, 2010 at 9:38 am
The clock is ticking, the sands of time…you get the point. The fact that we’ll be apart for a while has become real enough for us to stop talking about it – we’re just getting on with the things that need doing. I have landed myself a part time internship just up the road from Tarifa in Algeciras, starting September.
I hadn’t hoped to have a job before I’d even got there, but then I hadn’t factored in the miracle of the internet or more specifically, of Skype. I don’t work for them and this isn’t product placement, but seriously. Big up to Skype. Nuff respeck, or whatever it is. More