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 . . .
I SPOT a wood-burning stove in a junk shop in Lanjaron and decide to buy it because it’s essential that people retain basic skills and remain in control of their lives. You’ll remember this advice in ten year’s time when your Google driverless car breaks down and you haven’t a clue where you are because you binned the road atlas when you purchased a satnav . . . Continue reading A stove odyssey . . .
IT’S time to stand up for gherkins. For too many years this splendid vegetable – or fruit, to be precise – has been maligned in the British press. Legions of journalists have used the gherkin as a stop-gap measure to fill newspaper columns in times of adversity. The hour has come to redress the balance and embrace the gherkin; it’s time to gaze out across a vast desert of prejudice and cry out from the crucifix: “Yes, I’m Spartacus. And I also love gherkins . . .” Continue reading I’m Spartacus . . .
I PAY a visit to the advice centre in Orgiva to collect a parcel. It’s a place where floundering people such as myself can seek assistance with anything from arranging a dental appointment to buying a house – neither of which is straightforward in an unfamiliar country. It also functions as the postal address for many foreign nationals who live in the surrounding hills, because once out in the campo – the countryside – the Spanish postal system ceases to exist. The two ladies who run the office ask if I have plans for the week. I tell them my wife is visiting family in England, so I will be varnishing doors and fending for myself. “Ah, so you are Rodriguez,” they say . . . Continue reading I am Rodriguez
STRANGE 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
I HAD heard of Andalucia’s second spring but not paid much attention, semiconsciously filing it away in the mental drawer where curiosities such as the Gulf Stream’s effect on Ullapool are stored. A more methodical person might label this drawer “Questionable phenomena to be taken with a pinch of sea salt” . . . Continue reading The second spring
I’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