Self-service or à la carte?

Gobble on!!!

“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are God. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are God.” — Christopher Hitchens (13 April 1949, Hampshire England – 15 December 2011).

Christopher Hitchens was certainly a very colourful man, as far as thinking, reasoning, debating and philosophy is concerned.

He was ‘an English intellectual, polemicist, and socio-political critic who expressed himself as an author, orator, essayist, journalist, and columnist. He was the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of over 30 books, including five collections of essays on culture, politics, and literature.’ (Wikipedia).

He was an anti-theist and his dictum, “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence” is now known as Hitchen’s Razor.

In short, he was quite a character and as you can see from the above quote, he even went as far as discussing and concluding the differences between cats and dogs!

Thank you for reading. I hope this finds you well — take care!xxx

After the rains have passed…

A photo of the cloud as it gradually encroaches upon the neighbouring cottage here in the countryside of Posadas (Cordova)

The Cloud Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 Sussex, England –1822 Tuscany, Italy)

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.

I sift the snow on the mountains below,
And their great pines groan aghast;
And all the night ‘tis my pillow white,
While I sleep in the arms of the blast.
Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers,
Lightning my pilot sits;
In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,
It struggles and howls at fits;
Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion,
This pilot is guiding me,
Lured by the love of the genii that move
In the depths of the purple sea;
Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,
Over the lakes and the plains,
Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,
The Spirit he loves remains;
And I all the while bask in Heaven’s blue smile,
Whilst he is dissolving in rains.

The sanguine Sunrise, with his meteor eyes,
And his burning plumes outspread,
Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,
When the morning star shines dead;
As on the jag of a mountain crag,
Which an earthquake rocks and swings,
An eagle alit one moment may sit
In the light of its golden wings.
And when Sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath,
Its ardours of rest and of love,
And the crimson pall of eve may fall
From the depth of Heaven above,
With wings folded I rest, on mine aëry nest,
As still as a brooding dove.

That orbèd maiden with white fire laden,
Whom mortals call the Moon,
Glides glimmering o’er my fleece-like floor,
By the midnight breezes strewn;
And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,
Which only the angels hear,
May have broken the woof of my tent’s thin roof,
The stars peep behind her and peer;
And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,
Like a swarm of golden bees,
When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
Till calm the rivers, lakes, and seas,
Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
Are each paved with the moon and these.

I bind the Sun’s throne with a burning zone,
And the Moon’s with a girdle of pearl;
The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim,
When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.
From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
Over a torrent sea,
Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,
The mountains its columns be.
The triumphal arch through which I march
With hurricane, fire, and snow,
When the Powers of the air are chained to my chair,
Is the million-coloured bow;
The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove,
While the moist Earth was laughing below.

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.

Thank you for visiting — take care xxx

Happy St Valentine’s!

A copy of John Everett Millais‘ — The Huguenot, which was one of my first oil paintings that I had a bash at. I used oils on wood, though I made the mistake of diluting them too much with turps which had the effect of matting the colours — but not bad for that first attempt a few years ago. The height is about 1.5 m

Happy Valentine’s Day…

… although the above painting , however tender and sweet it may seem, might not really be so… Read on…

The Huguenot was painted by John Everett Millais in 1852. It is also known as A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew’s Day, Refusing to Shield Himself from Danger by Wearing the Roman Catholic Badge. 

The Huguenots were French Protestants who were persecuted because of their religion. This painting refers to their massacre of 3,000 Protestants in Paris (and 20,000 in the rest of France) on St. Bartholomew’s Day in 1572. In order to protect themselves and escape the danger they had to wear white armbands, one of the Roman Catholic symbols. The rise of Protestantism in France in the sixteenth century resulted in hostility from the Catholics which eventually gave rise to a series of religious conflicts knows as The French Wars of Religion.

I think the painting speaks for itself. Though soft and sweet in its appearance, especially where the girl is devotedly tying the ‘catholic’ armband on her lover to keep him out of harm, if one analyses the painting, it is not so sweet and simple: the main colours are dark, except for the brightness of the white band, which depicts that this is the only light and hope, shining out from the surrounding darkness and uncertainty, and without this there is death. The fallen petals that lie on his shoe and on the ground indicate hopelessness and the deathly fate of their love, while the Canterbury bells signify faith and constancy…

And here is a photo of the artist himself:

John Everett Millais (England 1829-1896) Wiki

John Everett Millais was a child prodigy who, at the age of 11 was the youngest to enter the Royal Academy Schools and later was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood ( a group of English painters, poets, and art critics, founded in 1848 who painted abundant detail, intense colours and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian art, basing many of their themes on romanticism, nature, history, legends, stories, fables and religion).

See more of his lovely (subjective!) paintings here

One of his paintings (oil on canvas, painted in 1886) was later used as the original advert for Pears soap:-

Bubbles‘ Millais (Wiki)

Hurrah for Pre-Raphaelite paintings!… but I’m sorry that my Valentine’s Day theme had a bit of morose side to it…

Anyway, here’s to hoping that you have a nice Valentine’s Day, not forgetting that originally Valentine cards were made by children for their MOTHERS!!!

xxx

It’s soooo difficult!

Hello everyone!  I hope this finds you well.

At this point you might be wondering what is so difficult. Well, as I mentioned in earlier blogs, I am trying to finish a book that I have been working on — a fantasy/fiction for children to which I recently added illustrations to make it more fun. I finally finished it (sort of…) and thought yippee! now I can out it up with Amazon, both as a paperback (though I already have had a few dummy copies printed out here in Cordova) and also as a Kindle book.

So I tried to follow their instructions and I have spent hours watching webinars put up by Kindle University, and I have been on the forums, read the advice, scoured through free manuscript converters: epubs, mobis, buboks, manualsbrain, Zlibrary and the suchlike. I turned the whole topic upside down, inside out, from left to right and vice versa.

Well, I managed to upload the front cover (only because by some stroke of luck I had downloaded the Canva illustrations as Jpg things), but when it came to formatting the manuscript, did I succeed?

The answer is… no I didn’t. Now this isn’t because I am not intelligent enough to follow instructions, but while I admit I am not tech-savvy, nor have I had any formal training on how to properly use all the settings on Word, I just don’t have the time to embark on another PhD and invest all this time on reading around and learning about things like: ‘fixed’ versus ‘reflowable’ texts; ‘contents page’ layout versus ‘insert a chart’; no page numbers versus numbering; ‘headings’ versus just centralising the chapter title and moving it a little by using the tab key; ‘linking’ for easy navigation; ‘fixing’ the illustrations; using proper ‘page breaks’ as opposed to just continuing with a new page; applying proper margins, indentations, line spacing, font, HTML language etc., etc., etc. — the list is endless!

I had read that it took a certain man about 8 hours to prepare his manuscript, but this certainly isn’t my case. I also read that you just have to ‘upload your word doc manuscript’ and hey presto Bob’s your uncle! So I did try that… and unfortunately, Bob wasn’t my uncle! The text was miniature, the new chapters didn’t coincide with new pages, and as to the pictures… well, they were all over the place! In other words, I made a real pig’s ear out of it and as a consequence… I gave up!

However, later that day when I was searching through a list of literary agents, one advert stood out from among the others, blaringly obvious. It was the website of a UK proofreader/copywriter who offers her services also for reformatting manuscripts into the necessary file that can then be used for Kindle and Amazon. Now, I’m not that flushed with cash these days (as craft people usually aren’t — you know, many hours of work for hardly any profit…), but I do believe in divine signs, so I made the logical decision to contact this lady, send her the first couple of chapters and ask for an economic quote, politely reminding her that many people these days have had their usual work hours restricted due to Covid. She promises in her website to be competitive; she certainly does seem very professional, has good references and also features a list of books that she has prepared for Amazon.

So here I am now (after having lit the fire, we’re having a spate of cooler, windy and rainy days) waiting with baited breath and crossed fingers, often turning my eyes heavenwards. Let’s see what happens…

In the meantime, during this literary lull I have decided to organise my quite disorganised craft room upstairs so that I can get on with some art work. I have abandoned this in the last few months as all my efforts have gone into finishing my book as well as my very limited teaching and translating work. I am so excited to embark on my craft and art work once again, especially as my husband promises that he will remove the eight large and very sturdy batteries which emit slightly toxic fumes and to remove also the very noisy invertors, all of which are necessary for our solar energy system. Perhaps now I will be able to get on with some craftwork and then update my much-neglected Etsy shop…

But how could I sign off without including a photo or two? So, as is my custom, here are a couple of photos, this time of the batteries and inverters and also of my extremely messy table. I’m waiting to get stuck in!

One of my disorganised tables desperately needing organising (there’s even a bike to boot!)
The culprit corner, cause of slight sulphuric acid gas intoxication and noise pollution! I told him that either they or I go! (I won’t say the reply…)

Will keep you posted.

Thank you for reading, take care  and oh… good luck if you’re trying to convert your Word manuscript into an eBook-friendly file!

Xxx

The mimosa’s in flower (here in Posadas, Cordova)!

The mimosa tree’s already in flower. Well, it’s not actually in FULL flower, but I thought I’d better take a photo of it today as rain is forecast and so the flowers won’t look fluffy and chick-like anymore, but will become rather shrunken and consolidated! The scent from the tree is delicately perfumed…

Here are the opening verses of a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley about the mimosa:

The Sensitive Plant — Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 Sussex, England –1822 Tuscany, Italy)

A Sensitive Plant in a garden grew,

And the young winds fed it with silver dew,

And it opened its fan-like leaves to the light.

And closed them beneath the kisses of Night.

And the Spring arose on the garden fair,

Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;

And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast

Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.

—————————————————————–

(For the full four-stanza-long poem see https://kalliope.org/da/text/shelley2003060601)

This poem was written during the early 1820’s when Shelley was living with his wife in Pisa and was experiencing difficulties in his marriage after the death of his child, Will. The poem describes a garden full of flowers which is attended by a lady, and the flower that stands out from all the others is the mimosa, or ‘sensitive plant’. The three sections of the poem reflect the seasons and there is a contrast between night and day and between the flowers and stars. This reflects the feeling of man’s temporalness compared to the eternity of the universe…

In the secret language of flowers, mimosa represents secret love, safety and increased sensitivity. Belonging to the acacia family it is also the symbol of gold, sun and a triumphant life — something I think we all would like!

Thank you for reading — take care xxx

My walk along the Ruta del Cambuco (The Route of the Ravine) between Posadas and Hornachuelos (Cordova)

Being a nice, sunny day, my legs were just itching to go for a walk — and so for a walk I went…

This is what I was supposed to see, and yes, I did see the ruins of the old flour mills and canal system, the fast-flowing river and the waterfall, but no, I wasn’t lucky enough to spot a kingfisher or otter…

This time I followed the Sendero Ruta del Cambuco footpath which lies between Posadas and Hornachuelos. ‘Cambuco’ is of Celtic origin, meaning ‘barranco’, or in English, gully, ravine and steep riverbank.

This picturesque path passes by waterfalls, rivers, poorly-preserved remains of old flour mills and along former canals harking back to the Moors and al-Andalus.

The Guadalcavarejo River starts in the hills and it is full and fast-flowing at this time of the year. (‘Guada-‘ is from the Arabic word ‘wadi‘, meaning ‘river’.)
With a bit of imagination you can see a waterfall here, though from this photo it’s a bit difficult to appreciate the depth and steepness of the gorge. I didn’t want to stand too close because the cliff edges were quite crumbly!
This is the roof of the old flour mill. To the left is a wide well and behind these, the canal which channelled the water to the mill complex. This particular mill dates back to the time of Ferdinand I, the Holy Roman Emperor (1503-1564), but some of the other mills that are in the vicinity are of the earlier Islamic age. (Ferdinand, by the way, was the uncle of Catherine of Aragon, first wife of King Henry VIII.)
Loads of this was in flower.

The path then wends its way through agricultural land planted with orange groves, olive trees and arable crops, and also passes stretches of ‘monte’ or wild land populated by small dwarfs, asparagus bushes, fig trees and loads of wild flowers and thyme.

The fields were already full of wild daisies, chamomile and dandelions! You can see the orange grove ahead — now is the time to pick the oranges.
And here’s a closer look.
Me standing under a very broad wild fig tree, near two of the natural caves.

The rock type is predominantly limestone-rich baked sandstone which has eroded in places to give karstic scenery and features like this natural cave. The whole area was under the sea at one time and there are many fossils dating to the Miocene period.

The remains of the Moorish bridge, Puente Quebrado

The path then passes close by an old Moorish bridge, Puente Quebrado which crosses the river. (‘Quebrado’ in English means broken, uneven or irregular.) Originally there were five arches, though only this one now remains. The design of the arch was typically Arabic. The bridge, together with the path formed part of the Xth century Arabic Route known as la Yadda (la ‘Gran Ruta’ — the Great Route) that led from Cordova to Badajoz (near the Portuguese frontier), running close to the extensive Cañada Real Soriana cattle track.

The Bembezar dam and reservoir in Hornachuelos — part of the extensive National Park which is home to a large diversity of fauna and flora.

The path then led towards the huge Bembezar reservoir (the one with the haunted monastery, Santa Maria de los Ángeles, perched high upon the cliff). It then turned up towards the B road along which we walked a short while til we got back to the car.

The haunted monastery of Santa María de los Ángeles

It was supposed to be a half-an-hour walk according to the information board, but I think we must’ve missed the path coming back because in the end it took about an hour and a half!

Nevermind, it was all great fun!

Thank you for reading — as usual, comments and questions are always welcome.

Take care xxx

Hooray for the dwarf wild irises!

Hello again!

When I went for a walk this morning along the cattle track La Cañada Real Soriana which skirts north of Posadas and Cordova, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the wild irises are out already. Above is just one example (I can’t include more at this stage because, as you might know already, I’m working on limited multimedia capacity!) — but I just couldn’t resist putting up this velvety delight:­-

Dwarf iris — Iris cristata (I think!)

The iris flower means wisdom, hope, trust, and valour and it inspired the fleur-de-lis decorative symbol used by French royalty.

In the 16th century BC, irises were introduced to Egypt from Syria and were used to decorate the sceptres of pharaohs, representing victory and power.

The Ancient Greeks associated irises to the goddess of the rainbow due to their wide variety of colours. Iris was a messenger for Zeus and Hera and accompanied female souls on their way to heaven. Even to this day irises are placed on women’s graves so that the Goddess will help them find their place in heaven.

Each colour represents different qualities:

Purple, for royalty and wisdom; white for purity; yellow — passion; and blue for faith and hope.

And to end this flowery blog, here’s a beautiful poem by the American, Madison Julius Cawein (Kentucky, March 23, 1865 – December 8, 1914). (His father made patent medicines from herbs, so it is not surprising Madison’s love for nature!)

Madison Julius Cawein (Wiki)

The Wild Iris

That day we wandered ‘mid the hills,-so lone
Clouds are not lonelier, the forest lay
In emerald darkness round us. Many a stone
And gnarly root, gray-mossed, made wild our way:
And many a bird the glimmering light along
Showered the golden bubbles of its song.

Then in the valley, where the brook went by,
Silvering the ledges that it rippled from,-
An isolated slip of fallen sky,
Epitomizing heaven in its sum,-
An iris bloomed-blue, as if, flower-disguised,
The gaze of Spring had there materialized.

I have forgotten many things since then-
Much beauty and much happiness and grief;
And toiled and dreamed among my fellow-men,
Rejoicing in the knowledge life is brief.
”Tis winter now,’ so says each barren bough;
And face and hair proclaim ‘tis winter now.

I would forget the gladness of that spring!
I would forget that day when she and I,
Between the bird-song and the blossoming,
Went hand in hand beneath the soft May sky!-
Much is forgotten, yea-and yet, and yet,
The things we would we never can forget.

Nor I how May then minted treasuries
Of crowfoot gold; and molded out of light
The sorrel’s cups, whose elfin chalices
Of limpid spar were streaked with rosy white:
Nor all the stars of twinkling spiderwort,
And mandrake moons with which her brows were girt.

But most of all, yea, it were well for me,
Me and my heart, that I forget that flower,
The blue wild iris, azure fleur-de-lis,
That she and I together found that hour.
Its recollection can but emphasize
The pain of loss, remindful of her eyes.

Thank you for visiting.

I hope you are keeping well. Bye for now xxx


Busy gardening and writing here in my country abode of Posadas (Cordova) — part 2 with limited photos!

Hello again!

Yesterday I explained the slight hitch that I was experiencing with putting up photos and my lack of sufficient space in my WordPress blog ‘multimedia’. I accidentally deleted all the photos from my last six blogs. I will soon arrive at the solution for this because I do like to illustrate my blogs and I love to write. So for now, and after having ‘slept on it’, I have decided to continue — see Lisa Featherstone’s interesting and enlightening article Highlights and Reflections about stepping away from a problem for a while in order to find the solution and where you ‘allow your own subconscious to work things out’. Therefore, I am posting the article that I had prepared for yesterday even though the number of photos has been curtailed. So here goes:

I just wanted to say that my posts have been a little less regular these days. This is due to three reasons really:

Firstly, because the garden and surrounding land has needed quite a bit of attention i.e. lopping, pruning and spraying with copper sulphate (see the photos). I’ve also been busy clearing my vegetable patch — pulling out the old plants of aubergine, peppers and tomatoes. Now I’ve just got the weeding left (quite a massive project!) so that I can soon sow the broad beans and later the French beans (which will be around February). The Swiss chard and spinach are flourishing amongst the weeds though, and the miniature roses need to be potted too!

The nesper tree, pruned and sprayed with copper sulphate. Next to it is a bay tree and on the far left, a pear tree which I shall attack today before the rain arrives!
The first fragrant flowers of the nesper
The fig tree pruned
The lemon trees sprayed — they are growing next to the false pepper tree
The lemon tree in bud
The lower shoots on the olive trees need to be pruned soon
My vegetable patch needs some attention too!!!
My untiring helpers!
The miniature roses need transplanting as well…
The wood for the fireplace needs covering before the rain — and there is another of my little helpers too!

Secondly, I have also been busy trying to finish illustrating a book that I wrote earlier. It’s a fantasy/fiction aimed at kids, and I thought it would be more fun with pictures. Though I love drawing, I’m not doing the illustrations myself because that would probably take me a lifetime! Instead, I am using the free images provided by Canva. I hope to put the book up with Amazon (that is, if I can actually understand the instructions of how to convert a Word doc. into the file that they ask for… Computing technology is usually quite mind-boggling for me, but luckily I have a twenty-five-year-old son who regularly comes to my rescue!).

Below is a draft for the front and back covers, and for my next blog I was thinking of including the two-page introduction since I value any comments or suggestions that you might have… (Mind you, if I haven’t upgraded my WordPress plan by then, I won’t actually be able to include any photos…)

The proposed front and back covers of the book I am illustrating…

And last but not least, I also try and go for a weekly walk in our beautiful local hills of the Sierrezuela which, as you can see, are becoming cloaked in green (and already the wild asparagus is growing — see here for my recipe…)

Well, thank you for visiting and I hope to be back soon (with or without photos!)

Take care — and as usual, comments and questions are always welcome, I love to interact with you! xxx