In Practice on July 27, 2011 at 10:46 am

I get in from my morning run and tackle the apartment. It was K’s birthday yesterday and I cooked her favourite – spaghetti in fresh tomato and basil sauce and a Caprese salad made with good buffalo mozzarella. My signature dish! A very simple meal for which I completely wrecked our kitchen; every knife, plate and surface in the place used, as usual.

Her two friends, A and M, arrive this afternoon to stay with us for a week so I make a little extra effort. I mop the floors to a shine and then put my sweaty self under the shower. Coffee and toast at my side I sit down to write, my own mind wiped a little cleaner by the sea air and the endorphins. It is often as I run that a story will begin – in the evenings I am too cluttered by the details of that day to find what I am looking for.

This morning my mind is that bit fresher. Deep cleansed. We have just returned from ancient Elvira; the city of pomegranates. The place we go to wash ourselves of worry and distraction, where we return regularly for a dose of clarity.

Our hotel on this occasion was a 15th century open air theatre. A ground floor and two storeys of gallery around a courtyard. Beautifully restored and so on. In one corner a chrome metal tree whose branches fan out to fill the open space overhead – shiny and reflective, it doesn’t diminish the light. At the tips of its branches, where they can be reached from the galleries, guests have attached slips of paper on which their wishes are written.

A wishing tree. People don’t seem to need much persuading to take part – the branches are congested with hope. It is a declarative act – pinning one’s desires up for others to see. The wisher is unburdened and cleansed. Wishes; we struggle with them, wrestle with them, resent them and sometimes we bury them; but they remain the best of all reasons for getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other.

If not a single scribbled yearning is realised the tree is still a glorious thing. The asking is the point, not the getting. It’s what I want for us; the life of the carrot and not of the stick – brave enough to win and not afraid to lose.

Each time we go to Granada we fall in love with it. Again. More. I like to think we fall in love with each other there. Repeatedly. It has been a grand punctuation mark for us – our first inspiration for the move, the site of our celebration a year later on pulling it off, and now the place from where we can hear the future’s voice calling to us most clearly.

On this visit we discover new neighbourhoods. The balmy restaurant terraces that surround the Plaza de Toros with the their white tablecloths and lamps. The urban cityscape of the Avenida de la Constitución. The leafy open spaces of the paseos – Salón, la Bomba, los Basilios. The outer reaches of the Albayzin – Cuesta Marañas, Cuesta del Perro Alta. At every turn the city delights.

We sit beneath the awning at Las Titas for a cafe con leche and map out our wishes excitedly. The home we want to have here, the family, the business K will run, the books I will write. We admonish ourselves to renew our efforts at language acquisition. We giggle and sigh at the thought of it all.

This is what Granada is for us – the big carrot. The footprints waiting for our feet as we put one in front of the other. A life. We’re working on it but it doesn’t really matter if reality matches up in the end. We are getting out of bed. We are taking steps.

On Monday morning we go for a walk before checking out. I want to find a flamenco recording that has been recommended (I don’t) and K wants to pick up some tea and spices for her parents. On our way back to the hotel we sidle diagonally across the square in front of the cathedral and up a few steps onto the polished surface of its upper level. We are accosted by the most incredible sound – a music of chimes and twangs and indescribable harmonics.

The musician sits outside the church with the instrument on his lap. It sounds like an ensemble but there is only him. Round, convex, saucer shaped; I’ve never seen anything like it before. A crowd is gathered – a real mix. Dog-on-string hippies, old folk, well heeled tourists, students. Everyone is mesmerised. Standing at a distance the music is whispered intimately into the ear.

When he finishes his piece the onlookers applaud and rather than move on everybody crowds in to look at the instrument. I ask him what it is and he tells me its a Hang (pronounced hung). My face still a rapt question mark he explains that it is a new instrument – invented a mere ten years ago, made in Switzerland by partners, and rare.

I google it later and there are recordings but they cannot do justice to the sound of the thing. It is as if Granada is showing off. Look, another surprise. Another new thing; fresh and charming. A parting kiss.

Back at the hotel I take our two paper wishes and pin them to the tree. I make a hash of it but I get them on there eventually. We read a few. Some are child-like. Some of them are wordy and elaborate. Ours are very simple.

One of them is for us.

One of them is for you.

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  1. It’s so awesome that you know of a place you think you could live or want to live in an be happy. We haven’t found too many of those.

    • It is awesome isn’t it? It’s no dead cert that we will end up there of course. Down here on the coast with K employed in Gibraltar we can get away with soso Spanish. Different matter in the city. But having pulled off our move to Spain we have a sense of can do. No matter what the future holds we have been inspired by that city and will always love it.

  2. Wow you make me love Granada and I haven’t even been there! Really enjoyed this post and can tell that you will be a successful author.

  3. Beautiful story! Granada sounds so special and romantic. Love the idea of a wishing tree — would like to add a couple myself.

    • Thanks Cathy – yes it’s both of those things, and beautiful, and dramatic, and historic, and fascinating, and seductive, and picturesque, and……..

  4. I always read your posts like I am hunting for little verbal easter eggs, and I am usually rewarded with several. Here is the one that really struck me this time: “the branches are congested with hope.”

    Serious question, when you are writing, do these literary bon mots stand out for you as well? Do you give yourself a little pat on the back? You should.

  5. Beautiful! I feel drawn to Granada now!

  6. Caprese is one of my favourites as well, how funny the simplest things are the best.

  7. Wow K is spoiled- cooking and cleaning? Nice. Also first time I have ever heard of the hang. It looks like 2 woks glued together! Does sound nice though.

  8. That is seriously beautiful writing. You have a gift for visualising places, and I’m liking Granada more and more without ever having been there.

  9. Lovely. Granada sounds simply fabulous… do you think you’ll make it there by next year? Because we will be making a sweep through Europe in May.

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