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 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, Presentation on November 7, 2012 at 10:18 am
This week’s story is a straight-up destination piece.
Destination pieces are often considered passé in travel writing circles, but that’s a failure of the imagination. They are the most essential form that travel writing has because they are the work of a person focusing on a place and together, place and person comprise travel’s most fundamental relationship. It’s all there: person and place. Everything else is fluff.
The current obsession with novelty applies as much to this as to anything else. Our very thinking, it seems, is to be novel if it is to satisfy the demands of our chocolately-chinned, app-building age. “Why We Travel”, “How We Travel”, the titles, or variations thereof, of any number of more recent travel-related essays and articles, have become the questions to be asked since “where” , apparently, became so yesterday.
For me it’s just the opposite. While “how” has thrown up some reasonably interesting, if frequently delusional, reflections on the ethics of travel, the problem with “why” questions is that no matter how fascinating or thorough our contemplations of them may be, they can usually be replaced in an instant, and convincingly, with another well-known and very simple question: why not? 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 Plenary, Production on July 2, 2012 at 10:16 am
The bright green of back-lit bay leaves on the laurel tree beneath the window. The uppermost branches and the sweetest new growth. The blue of the sky beyond them as they sway in the sunlight.
We didn’t know it was a laurel tree until an old man walked by one day with his granddaughter’s hand in his and asked if we’d cut him a sprig. I watch it now, rocking back and forth in the breeze before I get out of bed in the morning. The little quadrilateral of framed world I can see from the pillow; two elements – blue and green – somehow managing to exemplify our reasons for being here.
She might have been his great granddaughter; she was tiny and he was ancient.
Tomorrow it will be July. Summer makes me nervous; if you aren’t devouring the wonderful world, up to your chin in effervescing life during the brilliant season – in and out of the water, in and out of the blazing heat, floating on expanses of free time, drifting happily in the reverie of heat daze – you probably have an attitude problem.
Next to the laurel tree, the lemon tree. A few ripe fruits and more to come. More
In Plenary, Production on February 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm
I’m staring at poo.
It’s a shapely stool – well formed and regularly shaped, but the colour is just wrong; a dreadful pale hue. Truly awful.
It’s one of a number of turds I’ve had a good long look at recently. I’m not sure why I stare though.
Perhaps I enjoy savoring the rage.
No doubt there will be more to look at tomorrow. One of the motifs, the little details of daily life, currently: pieces of poo.
Winter is reductive – the head goes down and the eyes are drawn away from the far-flung horizon. They focus on the minutae at our feet. The world is scanned, bit by little bit – unconnected dots; attention hopping from one to the next without time for drawing the lines as one scurries from one warm spot to another.
Life is grainy; a composite of discrete things.
It’s 9.35 in the evening as I step off the bus at the first of Tarifa’s two stops, on my return from work. I’m just inside the town which spreads out downhill in front of me, and I take a right into a neighborhood of uniform, almost Soviet-style apartment blocks, away from the casco where we used to live. More
In Presentation, Production on February 12, 2012 at 5:57 pm
So after all the recent upheaval, we’ve had a baby.
Any big move is going to be an emotional time, and will inevitably turn thoughts toward domesticity, future and family; so we just went ahead and did it. As a facebook friend posted the other day, sometimes you have to take a leap and build your wings on the way down.
And we are certainly feeling that way this morning – hurtling toward the earth with our hammer and nails and a bag of feathers. Life is going to be different. We might be accused of not having thought this through. But we will learn as we go like we usually do.
Regular readers will be confused. No, you haven’t gone crazy – not nearly enough time has elapsed since I wrote about the topic to have done this the biological way. Neither of us is ever going to win any prizes for patience, but two weeks would be tight, even for us.
So strange and new to have a little one in the house! Not a particularly comfortable feeling, I have to tell you. The weight of responsibility, the anxiety, the pressure. Also, it’s a slightly creepy baby. More
In Plenary, Production on January 18, 2012 at 12:20 pm
There is some evidence, or so they say, that Tarifa is as old as Cádiz. When you consider that Cádiz is a front runner for the western world’s oldest city, that would make this little town on the southern tip of the Costa de la Luz pretty old. Phoenician, to add a little precision; or even pre-Phoenician.
The town I’m looking at now though, from up on the roof, as it sprawls around me in all directions, is largely an eighteenth century creation.
On my left, where we hang our washing, is Calle Castelar and the stately building opposite ours. From street level it looks like a bank but I think it must have been a merchant’s house; a glimpse can be had of a verdant inner courtyard. It is no doubt divided into private apartments these days and someone has laid out a magnificent patio and conservatory on the roof. I could lazily leap the narrow gap between it and our roof, so tightly are the streets and alleys squeezed between buildings in the casco.
Behind it, the heights of old Tarifa. Like a cubist painting roofs sit on roofs beneath a clutter of solar panels, water tanks and laundry lines. The whole thing tumbles down as my gaze shifts rightward. In the distance some newer apartment blocks and the green hills that separate us from Algeciras. More
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