Category Archives: Mountains

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

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

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 . . .

Little donkey . . .

DRIVING down the concrete track towards the house I pass a girl thumbing a lift. She’s carrying a big bag and a plastic bucket that’s full of stuff. I stop and she clambers into the front of the van. She’s going to El Morreon, an alternative community down near the Rio Guadalfeo. I can take her about halfway, which suits her fine. “What’s your name?” she says in a German accent. I tell her and ask hers. “Carlotta,” she replies. Pleasant girl, Carlotta – early twenties I would say, been in Andalucia a few months. Two minutes later I drop her off and she continues down the track with her bag and bucket . . . Continue reading Little donkey . . .

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

A drupe in every bite

drupes-1LIKE a bud bursting on a winter twig, a strange word has sprung from dormancy and entered my lexicon: drupe. You may have been familiar with this word since childhood, even knowingly engaged in plucking a variety of drupes from trees. But it’s a new word for me. Almonds aren’t nuts – they are drupes, I have discovered. I can’t say my world has been shattered by this revelation, but its axis has shifted a couple of degrees . . . Continue reading A drupe in every bite

Bread and thanks

oil-1OLIVE HARVEST, DAY 5: An epiphany at the mill. We’ve tipped our sacks of olives into a hopper, and the cumulative weight of Fiona’s, Bruce’s and my produce has topped at 727 kilograms. We’ve hung about for nearly five hours waiting our turn in the milling process. We’ve watched in stoic silence as tonnes of shiny black and green fruits have been mashed in the mashers and spun in the spinners, while our batch edges closer to its fate. Waiting their turn in front of us with about 1.5 tonnes of olives to crush is a large family consisting of the grandfather, six or seven middle-aged sons and daughters – or sons-in-law and daughters-in-law – and a couple of teenage grandchildren. As their golden oil begins to flow from a tap, the grandfather produces a fresh loaf of bread . . . Continue reading Bread and thanks