Tag Archives: History

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

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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

A wondrous cross

IT’S the annual Cristo festival, traditionally held a fortnight before Good Friday. Jesus and his mother are escorted from the Church of Our Lady of Expectation into the warm evening sunshine. In preparation, evil spirits are banished to ensure their passage will not be hindered. In the old days, the population of the Alpujarran town of Orgiva would bang pots and pans to drive out malevolence. Nowadays, 455 kilograms of gunpowder is used. That’s nearly half a tonne of high explosives in the form of thousands of fireworks. It’s extremely effective . . . Continue reading A wondrous cross

Oil in the blood

olive-oil-1OLIVE HARVEST, DAY 3: Clothes smell of oil. Arms and legs smell of oil. Hair smells of oil. Oil penetrates the skin and gets under the nails. It soaks the nets, soaks the sacks. It lubricates tool handles and the leather of boots. Crushed olives stain the grass and kitchen floor like trodden beetles. My world has become an olive oil production plant. The full sacks mount up slowly – 11, 12, 13 . . . Continue reading Oil in the blood

Amounts of olives

olive-1OLIVE HARVEST, DAY 1: Not so much a baptism of fire, more an anointment with oil. If that sounds a shade biblical, the route from Jerusalem to Bethany passed over the Mount of Olives – where Jesus preached to his disciples – so olives have been an important crop since biblical times, at least. The only route to pass my olive patch is the track that joins Orgiva to the settlement of El Morreon. No disciples, but three herds of goats and a school bus twice daily . . . Continue reading Amounts of olives

Stream of consciousness

sucio-1A BAND of Celts wander north into new lands and discover a broad river sweeping through forests. They are in awe of the river because it is deep and powerful. They give it a name, and the name is Esk. To later generations this possesses magical, almost ethereal, qualities. The name resonates so strongly it survives several waves of migration: Romans, Anglo Saxons, Scots, Vikings, Normans. Thousands of years after those Celts peered through the rushes, that river is still called Esk. That’s fascinating . . . Continue reading Stream of consciousness