Category Archives: 1950s

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


Passing clouds

I ONCE worked with two old boys called Carl and Jimmy. They weren’t old really, they just seemed old at the time. It was the early 1980s and I’d be in my late twenties, they in their early forties. Early forties isn’t old, unless you happen to be observing things from the viewpoint of someone twelve years younger . . . Continue reading Passing clouds

Welcome to Fuentecilla

fuentecilla 1STRANGE how life works. One bleak October day in the mid-1950s you emerge into a world gripped by the Suez Crisis; you are sent to school with a bag of pencils and a blood orange; your O-level results are far worse than expected; you struggle to bring up a family while the certainties of the world you know are demolished by a woman from Grantham; all your old aunts, uncles and grandparents die one by one; doors close while others slam in your face; good things happen but you tend to forget about them; your child becomes a man; grandchildren blossom; years dance by with unsettling alacrity; then suddenly, almost but not quite accidentally, your life changes beyond expectations and you buy a strange house in a strange country . . . Continue reading Welcome to Fuentecilla

Time and limericks

brenan 2I’M reading Gerald Brenan’s South from Granada: Seven Years in an Andalucian Village, an evocative account of the author’s life in southern Spain during the 1920s. Brenan came to Andalucia in 1919 after spending the First World War in less hospitable circumstances on the Western Front. After walking from Granada to the coast, and traipsing through nearly every village in the Alpujarras, Brenan decided to rent a house in the mountain village of Yegen. And there he wrote the diaries from which he later compiled his book, giving us a unique and candid insight into life in rural Spain in the pre-republican, pre-Franco era . . . Continue reading Time and limericks

The fog . . .

fog 1THE fog that has smothered important parts of Britain and brought TV journalists to a standstill is arriving in Spain. I lurk on the roof of our rural casa and watch it flooding Andalucia, welling up from the Mediterranean like something malevolent in an old Shepperton Studios film. Agnes the cat lurks with me, coiling round my legs. She remembers The Day the Earth Caught Fire, with Janet Munro and Leo McKern, and she’s expecting the worst . . . Continue reading The fog . . .

Knights in bright satin

knights 1

IT’S early evening and we call at the Andalucian spa town of Lanjaron because we’ve heard a fiesta is taking place tonight. We discover a mediaeval fair with stalls selling trinkets, soap, candles, wickerwork, implements of torture and barbecued meat, plus music and dancing. It’s all very interesting but curiously familiar . . . Continue reading Knights in bright satin

Once prickled, twice shy

chumbera 1

MY early-morning runs continue to deliver intriguing insights into this strange and perplexing country. Today, as I emerge from a shadowy track onto the main road, I see a motorcyclist park his bike and begin to pick prickly pears from a large and ferocious roadside cactus. He keeps his gloves on, which is a good idea, while he fills his back-box with the golden fruit. The motorcyclist ignores me as I pad past. Picking prickly pears requires concentration . . . Continue reading Once prickled, twice shy