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, 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 Presentation, Production on August 27, 2012 at 4:34 pm
We leave Cáceres at midday, having climbed up the cathedral’s bell tower and down into an old aljibe, or water cistern, left here by the Arabs and drive over some hard, hard country, Extremadura explaining its name to us as we pass through it. One wonders whether anything here is ever green – at any time of year – but certainly not now in high summer.
They say Ireland is like a wet sponge clinging to a rock. I say they – it was probably me. Well, this is like a baked crust. The ground is strewn with sizeable boulders and partitioned by dry stone walls. The kind of skies you only see in big country – multiple categories of cloud wisp into the distances.
I can’t resist – I put some flamenco on, reminded here of my earliest notion of Spain, born not of my first visit but long before that, of a painting my father owned that depicted a señorita standing next to a table in some makeshift tavern, her stance that of a bailaora, the hem of her dress caked in mud and dust. The impression I had was of a people who lived without finery but not without style, and for all the talk of Spain’s homogenization, for all the “we’re all Europeans now” chatter – as if being the same was a good thing – I think I can still see it. 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 Production on June 21, 2012 at 12:45 pm
I have to get right down to the ground to take a picture of the ladder because it’s only four inches tall. My elbows get a bit mucky on the floor and people are staring, but I want the shot.
“Wait a minute”, I hear you ask yourself. “That doesn’t sound like a terribly effective ladder.”
“Normally, people need to bend down to reach things at the four inch level and when it comes to bending down, ladders are generally considered unfit for purpose.”
“Such a ladder”, I hear you continue “would appear to have been built to address a problem that does not exist.”
But you’d be wrong.
It isn’t all about you, you know. It isn’t even, I’m told, all about me.
And it isn’t a toy ladder either. Nor is it a model; it’s a real ladder and it’s used on a daily basis.
Nightly, in fact.
We’re back in Jerez and we’re taking a tour of one of its numerous sherry bodegas. It’s June and the bodegas 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 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