In Plenary, Presentation on October 23, 2013 at 7:58 am
On the roof at number eight again, a pale sun trying to burn through the thin layer of cloud overhead. I could be in the country here, in some crooked little pueblo, for all the city noise I can hear – which is to say, none. Red tiles and whitewashed walls, palms, ferns and potted plants – my visual field is a crowd of Andalusian tropes – but this place is different, has always managed to be different. Something in its proportions, in the shape of the slender carmens and villas that rise from the ramshackle roofscape, the better to build the miradors and terraces from which people have looked across at the opposite hill for centuries.
The horseshoe arches and heavy wooden doorways and window frames: there is something more distinctly Berber here than anywhere else on the peninsula. Something Arab. Something African. K has walked down to the frenetic city below where we were last night, almost intimidated by its busyness, its overflowing bars and bodegas, to shop. I’ll follow her down there soon; it’s only a five minute walk through the stepped and cobbled, car-free streets of the old town.
It isn’t completely silent; as I down the first coffee of the day and look up at the Alcazaba, I recognise a few notes of “New York, New York” as it wafts over from a house upslope behind me. It’s soft and welcome and entirely typical of the place. I can’t remember being here, in fact, and not being able to hear music, if only in the distance. It always seems to be good music too: when it isn’t flamenco it’s jazz, or swing, or an old Billie Holliday number More
In Presentation on June 2, 2013 at 1:16 pm
We go to Jerez. Our usual hostal: cheap, clean and sparsely furnished. Two high little windows into the alley, a cool-tiled floor, a double door with ornamental balcony that overlooks the inner patio, its railings hung with geraniums, a fan in the corner, a chair.
I go for a walk while K sleeps and, finding myself in an old tabanco (a sherry bar that serves from the barrel), I ask for a palo cortado; on a prompt from the ageing barman I stipulate that I’d like it chilled. Then I settle down with it at a barrel-top table and stare into the middle distance like the other two unaccompanied men in the place.
Tabancos will sometimes sell the region’s wine by the bottle as well and there are a few rickety old shelves for the purpose as well as large urns and plastic containers of sherry vinegar. I’m the youngest here by a long way, and I’m not that young. If you require vivacity in your watering holes it probably wouldn’t be for you, with its assisted-suicide-through-sherry vibe and pickled old men, but I like it. When I came in the guy behind the bar looked genuinely surprised to see me but by the time I get up to pay and leave, asking as I do if it would be alright for me to take a photograph of the place, he’s become friendly and says that of course it would. He does advise me that if he himself is in the photo he will charge me.
“Like Ronaldo does,” he says.
“Fine,” I reply, “please get out of the way.” More
In Presentation on May 10, 2013 at 8:44 am
How exquisite to race along the country roads of Franconia in Spring, the sky finally clear after a dreadfully long winter, the curving, sinking fields around us dappled with wildflower. We have some sublime music on and it exhilarates – a perfect match for the serene scenery, this central European tableau of farmhouse, mill and die wälder, the abundant patches of old forest that characterise northern Bavaria. We ride the melodies through dorf and altstadt, through the rock formations of Fränkische Schweiz, the territory between Bamberg and Bayreuth they call their little Switzerland – pretty towns, dark-beamed buildings as only the Germans can build them and at almost every junction of the roads a little brewery and biergarten.
We stop in at a favourite, Kathi Bräu, for some quark and onion on heavy brown bread, then set off again along the winding rivers that snake their way from Schloss to Schloss, the imposing castles that number even more here than they do in Andalusia. Our eyes and ears are joined in pleasure as the ensemble, a quintet, race through their bright, 1979 recording of self-penned pieces. The title of the collection, “Highway To Hell”, belies the uplifting nature of the Australian musicians’ performance.
A few days later, we’re without any soundtrack at all, not even a breeze to rustle up the leaves as we walk through forest near the little town of Kulmbach. It’s the kind of country we don’t have in Ireland – there isn’t enough space between things there to fit in places like this, More
In Presentation, Production on February 17, 2013 at 5:03 pm
K is taller than me and as I’ve made very clear before (including inadvertently, I’d imagine) generally plays the part of the responsible adult at Casa Alotofwind, but today resembles nothing more than a toddler as she clambers into the little pen to get a closer look at the kids. More accurately: part toddler part predator, as she homes in on one in particular, big stupid grin on her face, and goes after it.
The clueless little thing soon finds itself held aloft in her arms and the recipient of a torrent of unsolicited affection, in the face of which it screams until she puts it down.
Grin intact, she goes after another.
It’s surprisingly cold in the barn, despite our being surrounded by a herd of payoya, a breed of goat native to Andalusia and known for the cheese they produce. Queso Payoyo is revered around here, in the way only the Spanish can worship an artesanal food product (the best is from Cádiz, you know…you should only ever eat it in the summer, at a wedding…it isn’t proper payoyo unless the cheese has been rolled down a hill, in rainy weather…my grandmother made the best payoyo in Andalusia…and so on) and we’ve come to a queseria near Casares in Málaga province to have a look at how they make it.
Juan the cheese man is dressed from head to toe (no great distance) in white, including snow white trainers and a little white hat. More
In Presentation on May 18, 2011 at 9:23 am
The sultan sits.
Around him the royal party recline; the tinted light from the cumarias stains their skin and bounces brightly from the polychromed walls – every inch of them covered in script and elaborate tile work; geometries in blue, green, yellow and black. Shells, flowers, stars…
The floor is glazed in blue and white and the high hall is a perfect cube; its immaculate symmetries offset today by shadow, the scent of fruit-flavoured shisha, heady perfumes, cushions, throws and music.
Bleary-eyed blinking ambassadors adjust as they come in from the courtyard and its water-refracted glare.
Nervous functionaries nestle in the nine alcoves.
The boy’s voice joins the shisha smoke and rises quietly, curling through koranic quotes and climbing towards the seven concentric crowns of the cupola. More
In Plenary, Practice on October 10, 2010 at 1:10 pm
K will be here in less than two weeks and I realise now that the Tarifa that will welcome her will not be the one that welcomed me, two months previously. It is already quieter than it was when I arrived in August at the height of its booming tourist season. I was stepping over surfers in the street at the time and every night was a noisy affair, the little squares filled with tables and chatty diners; the bars pulsing to house, hip hop and jazz.
Already a number of outlets have closed – the wifi place at the top of my street that always seemed to be both staffed and patronised by the English, a boutique on the same street that sold clothes which I imagine would be classified as “shabby chic” for horrendous prices More