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 Practice, Production on May 1, 2013 at 10:15 am
The cobbles glisten along the Carrera del Darro and little rivulets of rainwater rush downhill as we walk up, our feet sodden in their inadequate shoes. The weather gives K an excuse to duck into one or two craft shops on our way but she isn’t buying today. She’s in good spirits though; I’m making her laugh – something I regularly try and fail to do.
We’re sharing a tiny umbrella so the view is downward, at the pavement and the street; the rain has managed to take us by surprise and we will be wet through by the time we’ve hiked up to our little cave in Sacromonte, the old gitano quarter that these days is a warren of tablaos that truck tourists in for a bite to eat, some flamenco, and out again.
Wet, cold and happy; we’ve spent the morning and afternoon wandering through our favourite place. Like a lion’s paw resting on mown grass, a few outcrops of the Sierra Nevada come to a stop here on the flat of the vega, the vast flood plain on which sprawls the modern city. Above it, on one of the lion’s claws, the old red fortifications of the Alhambra. On the next claw, the rambling, crumbling, tumbling network of streets and patios, palaces and carmens that makes up the Albayzin. Bougainvilleas and cypress trees pop up amongst the stone-walled gardens and dusty red roofs of old, white-washed town houses, churches and former minarets.
We passed the caracole bar on Plaza Aliatar and walked down Calle Agua del Albayzin to Plaza Larga and through the old Puerta de las Pesas. More
In Practice, Presentation on April 10, 2012 at 8:38 am
“So is this the Royal and Very Illustrious Fraternity of the Holy Christ of the Expiration, the Virgin of the Greatest Pain and the Piarist Brotherhood of Jose de Calasanz”, asks K, “or is it the Ferverous and Penitent Brotherhood of the Holy Christ of the Good Death and Our Lady of Love and Railworkers?”
I can’t help chuckling to myself at her schoolgirl error.
“No, no you silly bean”, I gently chide, patting the back of her hand.
I’ve been brushing up on the processions in my little Semana Santa booklet, complete with timetables, recommended viewing locations and little illustrations depicting the various get-ups that would identify the cofradias, or brotherhoods, and their penitent, pointy-hooded nazarenos. Apart from the colour of their costumes there would be nothing to distinguish one nazareno from another; all of them covered from head to foot, their identities concealed by capirote, capa and capuz. I recognized the conical yellow headwear and black túnica that we’re looking at now immediately.
“It’s the Pontifical and Royal Confraternity and Brotherhood of our Lady of Solitude and the Descent of Our Lord.” More
In Plenary, Production on August 31, 2011 at 1:43 pm
A year. Twelve months. Fifty two weeks. Three hundred and sixty five days. The first of them in August, just; sweaty, sweltering disorientation. Teeth clenched, eyes wide, ready.
September was a month of early mornings and confounding application forms. Religious processions and kind hearted bureaucrats. And baptism of fire in that most frightening of places. A classroom of children.
October brought reunion and a new beginning. Departures, grave-digging and grief. A weekend in oft-criticised Tangier. We loved it, especially the cake.
I was surprised to make it through the month of November, what with all the bloodsuckers. Back to our beloved Granada to clink glasses.
December was a lesson; when it rains in Spain it doesn’t mess around. Oh, and try not to be up a mountain when it happens. More blood loss and a snowy Christmas.
After all the mosquitoes, I got my first look at the Mezquita in January. Settling in to the apartment, the noise and the confusion. More
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. More
In Practice, Production on November 19, 2010 at 10:38 am
“I think we’re cool”, says K.
We’re on the way back to Tarifa, having spent a few days in our favourite; Granada. We have been winding our way through the mountainous Malaga hinterland for nearly an hour and now we are nearing the city itself, crossing the snake-like Guadalmedina numerous times as we navigate its sheer, precipitous valley. A few spots of rain hit the windscreen now and then but the weather is mostly blue sky.
We’re always sad to leave Granada. Always. There are few things, I have learnt, on which K and I agree absolutely and unequivocally (most of our decisions are reached through complex negotiation or protracted periods of mind game and emotional manipulation). This epic city is one of them. More