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
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
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 . . .
CHRIST emerges from his refuge for the second time in as many weeks and again he is greeted by the sinners. The Sweet Name of Jesus band plays mournful tunes while the hooded penitente parade behind the cross through the streets of Orgiva. It’s a spectacle . . . Continue reading Bearing crosses
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 . . .
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
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