Brutal beauty

TURN a sharp corner in Andalucia – and there are many of them – and you might see a bridge dating to the Roman occupation, a fortress built by the Moors, a mediaeval church, a whitewashed village or a soulless retail park. What you don’t see so often are monoliths raised during the Franco era . . . Continue reading Brutal beauty

Fifty years later . . .

THERE’S a swallowtail butterfly in the lavender. It busies itself drifting from one plant to another, gathering nectar or whatever it is that butterflies do. This insect – as delicate as it is – triggers a thought process in the recesses of my mind and liberates forgotten memories. I am transported to a terraced house in a Lancashire village where coal trains from Cumberland clank past the front door and high moors rise from the back . . . Continue reading Fifty years later . . .

Palace of the people

AMONG the northern toes of the Sierra Nevada, on a hilltop overlooking the city of Granada, stands the Alhambra – the most complete Islamic fortification and royal palace remaining in Europe. Built as a fortress in 889, it was enlarged in the mid-13th Century during the Nasrid dynasty, and after the fall of Islam in Spain, in 1492, became one the residencies of the Christian monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella. It was eventually abandoned, partially destroyed by Napoleon’s troops, became a haven for the homeless, was rediscovered by European intellectuals and restored to its former glory – and is now Spain’s premier ancient monument and number-one tourist attraction . . . Continue reading Palace of the people

Ruibarbo, ruibarbo

THERE are many things a man needs to sustain him in life and one is rhubarb. There may well be items of greater importance, such as bread and butter, faith, humility and hot tea, but rhubarb is among the essentials. Anyone who has worked an allotment, or owned a back garden where dolly tubs rust quietly under elder trees and gutters sag from shed roofs, knows the one element that links them all is the rhubarb bed. A vegetable patch without rhubarb is like a hot-pot without potatoes. So this is my quest to grow rhubarb in Spain . . . Continue reading Ruibarbo, ruibarbo

Concrete facts

THERE’S a law in Spain relating to fresh concrete. People are obliged to tread through it to leave their mark. This also applies to cyclists and motorists; tyres must make an impression, several centimetres deep. Dogs and goats are not excluded. Owners must ensure that claws, paws and hooves are inserted. Unaccompanied animals have a special responsibility to use their initiative. Nothing is exempt . . . Continue reading Concrete facts

Just like Scotland . . .

LATE afternoon. And after two days of heavy Andalucian rain, which shorted out our electricity supply, the clouds break and Sierra de Lújar emerges from grey. I stand on the roof and feel the warmth of sunshine. For the briefest of moments I am in Scotland . . . Continue reading Just like Scotland . . .