In Plenary, Presentation on November 17, 2014 at 11:08 am
Like all drunks, we wake up laughing.
Then we lie there for a long time, not moving.
“I don’t want to move,” says K. “I’ll find out how drunk I still am.”
The day presents us with its first demand. It requires a decision of us – breakfast in or out. Out will mean more movement and negotiation of human affairs than can currently be imagined. In will involve twenty-four quid.
“It can’t possibly be twelve per person,” I say. “For bloody breakfast. Have you checked?”
We’re both looking at the ceiling. It isn’t interesting but it’s reassuringly plain and white and motionless. Anything else I look at has a tendency to slip and slide in an alarming way.
“Yes, I’ve checked,” says K. “It’s twelve per person.”
“Ridiculous. We’ll go out for a tostada.”
We don’t, of course. Preparing to haul myself out of bed, I lean over to kiss her but she turns away.
“It’s not you,” she says. “It’s my own stench. I can still taste the papas alioli.” More
In Presentation on April 10, 2014 at 8:58 am
The feathery touch of the late sun against worn sandstone blocks, almost physical, like a warm breath.
In a plazuela to the side of the Iglesia San Dionisio, overlooked by a virgen in ceramics, K’s glass of water casting a long shadow and splitting the light into a colour spectrum on the arm of her chair.
The wrought iron doorway of the meson, swung open, and the waitress’ white shirt that catches the sun as she stands there.
To the left of the door, a window covered in iron lattice and behind that, glass panes framed by dark wood.
All of it set into the heavy blocks and all of it softy brilliant in the slanted sun, dappled in the shadows of the orange trees as the last light shines like time itself, animating everything.
Our table, which I thought messy at first and almost avoided till I saw that the others were the same, in fact strewn with fragile white stamen, fallen from the orange blossom overhead. The air sweet with its scent.
Hello again, Jerez.
The little plazuela is three-sided, opening up onto the larger Plaza de la Asunción with its weather-beaten but wonderful old cabildo 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 Plenary, Presentation on January 28, 2013 at 8:27 pm
“I’m not a conservative person, am I?” I ask K.
We’re sitting in a wood panelled taberna in Madrid, towards the end of the evening. Full of tapas and perhaps a little tipsy, we haven’t ordered anything here, content to sit side by side with a glass of wine each and fill up on all the antique eye candy around us – the (inevitable) bulls’ heads, the little sign that announces the availability of snails, the dusty old bottles of sherry, the elegant, marble-topped tables.
What I thought then: not conservative. As a matter of fact I hold views which positively annoy conservatives. Actually, I consider annoying conservative types one of life’s great pleasures. More than that perhaps – a duty. It would be no surprise to run into conservatism here, given the decor, but actually the other customers look rather bohemian. We’ve been in Madrid for less than a week and we’ve seen the inside of a lot of bars.
Many, many bars.
Apart from the fact that I probably would have done that anyway, I’ve been researching for a story I want to do on the city and its tapas. K hasn’t voiced any objection to joining me, so here we are in Bar Umpteen. 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 Practice on May 29, 2012 at 10:02 am
We go to Jerez.
Up the N340, onto the the A396 at Vejer and onwards towards Medina Sidonia looking for the A389 to Arcos. Not finding the A389, we bicker and then we switch on the satnav bitch and let her guide us onto the A381 towards Jerez. It’s too soon to be there though and we have a day trip to Arcos planned so we slip onto the A4 and then eastwards on the A382. Jesus Christ, it’s like algebra. One moment we’re whizzing along on a grand adventure, the next we’ve missed our exit and it instantly becomes an exercise in failure and inadequacy. Anyway, we get to Arcos. Jesus.
We enjoy Arcos, a town draped over a couple of heights along a sandstone ridge and very well endowed with pueblo blanco charm and tourists, and after a couple of hours we find our way back to the car and head for Jerez. Arcos facts for the interested; it used to be Berber, it’s very big for a pueblo blanco, it does indeed boast many arches (arcos).
It is impossible for us to near Jerez feeling anything but carefree optimism. We love it. We came to Spain more excited about places like Seville and Granada, Cádiz and Córdoba but we have never had a bad time in Jerez. It is a sleepy, More
In Practice, Production on June 27, 2011 at 4:19 pm
On the road to Cádiz
The big burn.
Summer has recoloured the country. What had been verdant crop is now yellow and baled in rows at regular intervals. Dusty and baked. Cattle sit down in the heat. The only living crop an endless field of sunflowers.
We pass an expanse of solar panels that seem for all the world to have been built especially to resemble the local pine forests. Squat structures with wide canopies – sucking up the sun and casting shade beneath them. They sit on a rise as cracked and parched as a desert.
Brown, yellow, dusty greys – the colours dead things go before they disappear forever. The season scorches the year’s remains. Clears the way. As much death in Summer as there is in Winter; as much life there as there is now, here. It doesn’t seem such a brutal truth looking at wheat fields that I know will be green again and soon. More