The above quote is taken from Robert Burns‘ epic poem Tam o’ Shanter (7th stanza). ‘It is a wonderful poem in which Burns paints a vivid picture of the drinking classes in the old Scotch town of Ayr in the late 18th century.’
These very descriptive lines of Burns are flavoured with evocativeness, poignancy, wistfulness, doom, fright, macabre, warning and even a slight sense of humour — they are definitely worth a read!
A little bit about the man: Robert Burns was born in Ayrshire in Scotland on the 25th of January, 1759. He was also known as Rabbie Burns (as well as other names such as the Bard of Ayrshire). He was a Scottish poet, (belonging to the Romantic Movement) and was also a lyricist, farmer and exciseman. He was considered the national poet of Scotland and wrote both in the Scots language and its dialect, as well as in English (where his comments were often the most blunt). He also travelled around collecting folk music from Scotland and wrote the lyrics forAuld Lang Syne, (meaning ‘old long since’ / ‘long, long ago’ / ‘days gone by’…) which is typically sung at Hogmanay. For his full, interesting biography see here.
And as for the meaning of poppies…
It is thought that the word ‘poppy’ is derived from the Old English popig, which is a Medieval Latin alteration of the Latin word papaver, meaning ‘to swell’. It could also stem from the Latin word for milk, pappa, perhaps because of the milky sap that oozes from its stem when the flower is cut.
The symbolism of the poppy is quite wide-ranging, depending on the colour of the poppy and the country where it grows. For example, the red poppy can symbolise peace, death and sleep, which explains why, in western countries, it is usually used in commemoration of the soldiers fallen in the war.
In contrast, in Eastern countries red poppies usually symbolize love and success, whereas white poppies usually stand for remembrance and peaceful rest and are often tied to funerals and memorial ceremonies.
In Japanese and Chinese cultures the red poppy represents passionate love in a couple.
Apart from these meanings, poppies can also symbolise imagination, messages delivered in dreams, beauty, luxury and extravagance.
Finally and interestingly enough, the Californian poppy is the national flower of California and the red poppy is the national flower of Albania.
Thank you for reading. I hope you can enjoy your wild flowers wherever you are.
It’s an intense week here in Spain being Easter week. Unfortunately the numerous processions which take place every day in almost every city, town and village have been cancelled for the second year running due to Covid. However, there is a lot that the church has organised that you can take part in, in a controlled, safe way, complying with all the regulations — meditations, contemplation, talks, prayers, retreats, expositions, just to name a few.
So for now I would just like to share with you some photos of the statues and floats that are usually paraded along the streets; these are typically accompanied by the brass band and rows of hooded penitents that quietly shuffle along. To see more photos and read about the processions you can visitmy previous blog which I wrote last Easter Sunday.
This huge poster hangs from the façade of the parish church,Santa María de las Flores in Posadas. It reads:
‘Padre en tus manos enconmiendo mi espiritú…Yo soy la resurrección, la vida: el que cree en mi aunque haya muerto, vivirá… El que quiera siguirme, que se niegue a sí mismo, tome su cruz y me siga…’
which translates as:
‘Father into your hands I commend my spirit… I am the resurrection and the life: he who believes in me although having died, will live again… Whoever wants to follow me, let him renounce himself, carry his cross and follow me…’
The above photo is a representation of the Last Supper table. This is inside the parish church,Santa María de Las Flores in Posadas.
The following impressive statue of Mary, La Virgen de la Misericordia is in San Pedro church of Cordova.
I understand that all this might not be your cup of tea, but one just can’t help but appreciate the amount of artistic work and total devotion and dedication that these processions involve — take, for example, Mary’s cloak which is richly hand-embroidered — and that’s nothing to say about the woodwork, flower arrangements and craftsmanship in precious metals. Nor does it involve just this outward expression: it is accompanied by a quiet strength of faith, prayer, reflection and interiorism. It is a week of living and breathing the Word — a poignant and emotive time which culminates and comes to fruition on Easter Sunday.
Well, this just leaves me to early wish you all a Happy Easter and to wish you well.
Since I woke up at the crack of dawn this morning, I decided not to linger in bed, entertaining endless thoughts in my head (that rhymes, doesn’t it?), but instead (and so does that), have an early cup of Tetley’s to rehydrate the brain and hopefully get it in some sort of working order — and if that failed, then have a invigorating shower followed by a healthy breakfast (of yoghurt with cut-up strawberries and bananas, plus raisins, mixed seeds, goji berries, all sprinkled over with cinnamon. Yummy!).
So I did all this, and finding myself pretty revitalised, despite my 5-hour night— (I was watching a documentary ‘til late on Hitler and the reaction of the different monarchies to him, the Nazis and the war) — I decided to go for an equally-invigorating walk along our country lane. Though the temperatures these days are reaching the 23°C mark, the morning temperatures are still fresh, around 8°C so it makes pleasant walking.
So off I set and what did I come across? The following photos will explain:
Now let me share with you what I have recently learnt about the pretty lupin:
The name comes from the Latin lupus, which means wolf, and the reason for the name is because it was believed that these flowers stole¸ cunningly like a wolf, the nutrients from the earth since they were commonly found on poor soils (the flowers that is, not the wolves). However, quite the opposite is true: lupins, like other legumes such as lentils, chick peas etc. actually enrich the soil and are useful for farming as they are high in nitrogen. Here in some traditional olive groves local to Posadas in the province of Cordova where the olives are picked by hand and not by machine, you can often see bushes of lentils, beans and chick peas that have been planted in rows between the trees. After the legumes have been harvested, the remaining plants will then be dug back into the soil in order to increase its fertility with all that added nitrogen.
Although lupins are part of the pea family, they are poisonous, containing toxic seeds and can therefore pose a threat to livestock and cattle. However, there is now the ‘sweet lupin’ a genetically-engineered variety of the original in which the toxic alkaloids have been removed. The beans of the lupin plant are edible and used for both human and cattle consumption. Australia is a major producer of these lupins
NOTE: you cannot eat just any lupin seeds from your garden or countryside the seeds must be processed first to remove the toxicity.
Lupin beans are a great favourite here in Spain (in fact in all the Mediterranean Basin countries, as well as North Africa and Latin America. They were also popular with the Incans, Native Americans, Romans and the Egyptian pharaohs too). Here, the lupin beans, or altramuces in Spanish, are often given as a free tapa in many bars (they are previously soaked until soft). Beware though: people who have a peanut allergy are fairly likely to be allergic to lupin beans too.
The beans are very nutritious and the extract from the seeds of the white lupin help the production of collagen, promoting cellular repair and growth. They are low in fat, gluten-free, rich in amino acids, antioxidants and fatty acids, high in fibre and contain protein too. They are also prebiotic. (I’ll think in future I’ll be adding this to my cereal or yoghurt-fruit mix — yippee, here comes super-woman!)
On a more mystical note, apart from their symbolism with wolves and the moon, the lupin represents happiness, imagination, creativity and admiration, also energising one’s inner strength. They represent hope for new opportunities too. (Yes, I’ll definitely be adding this to my cereal or yoghurt-fruit mix in the mornings, possibly soaking them first in a cup of Tetley’s to give them that extra kick!)
So, all in all, apart from being pretty and useful, lupins are also positive-meaning flowers, encouraging good cheer and hope. Something I wish for all of us.
But to finish with, here’s a poem about lupins bySeamus Heaney — poet, playwright and translator, lecturer and professor, (and one of nine children!), from a farming, cattle dealing and linen mill worker background.
Seamus Heaney (Ireland 13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013)
They stood. And stood for something. Just by standing. In waiting. Unavailable. But there For sure. Sure and unbending. Rose-fingered dawn’s and navy midnight’s flower.
Seed packets to begin with, pink and azure, Sifting lightness and small jittery promise: Lupin spires, erotics of the future, Lip-brush of the blue and earth’s deep purchase.
O pastel turrets, pods and tapering stalks That stood their ground for all our summer wending And even when they blanched would never balk. And none of this surpassed our understanding.
Today is the 13th and this reminds me of the legend of the mystical arch — el Arquito — that we have here in our local village of Posadas. This Little Arch, dating back to the Gothic 13th century was also known as Puerta del Levante, The Eastern Gate of the castle that once stood on this land. It is located in the Morería neighbourhood of Posadas village, which dates back to 500 AD, and was an area formerly occupied by the Jews and Moors. In 2006 it was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC), also forming the stage set of many films such as Guerreras Verdes (Green Warriors) starring Carmen Sevilla and Sancho Gracia.
Below this medieval archway lie the remains of an old door of the former medieval castle, the last towers of which fell in 1791. There was also a window with a turntable where, in more recent years, abandoned children destined for the Charity Hospital were placed. They were either adopted or left to suffer a worse fate…
Above The Arch there is a balcony with a railing behind which is a little shrine presided over by the Virgen de los Remedios(The Virgen of Remedies).
The statue dates back to the 16th century, and the shrine adjoins an old former chapel also of the same antiquity, La Capilla de la Caridad (Charity Chapel). This now houses the beautifully-kept, whitewashed, rustic, wooden-beamed tourist office. (I wonder if I’ve got my adjectives in the right order?…)
Certain mystical qualities are attributed to this Arquito and many fervent prayers are offered to The Virgin Mary by devotees asking for cures and protection from bad luck.
The special day to make such supplications is any Tuesday that coincides with the 13th, on which day the devotee will pass under the archway three times, each time reciting the Hail Mary before making their petition. If their prayer is answered, then they hang a green ribbon from the balcony railings in acknowledgement and gratitude. (Sure enough there are numerous little strips of green material fluttering from the balcony!) Flowers are also deposited before her on her saint’s day, and on each second Sunday of October she is paid a visit.
There still exists the saying in Posadas: ‘Ese es más viejo que el Arquito’, which means ‘Him — he is older than the Arch’.
For a more detailed and very interesting account of the Arquito and its intriguing history based on authentic documents from the early 19th century (as well as more on the history of Posadas village) see the blog of Gabriel Martín entitled The Abandoned Infants of the Foundling Home of Posadas in the 19th Century. (Good practise for your Spanish but I think you can use Google translate. The black and white photos do summarise its sad story.)
There are other mystical legends pertaining to the neighbouring villages of which I have already written about in previous blogs: Hornachuelos (the enchanted convent of Santa Maria de los Ángeles) and Almodovar del Río (the haunted medieval castle). However, suffice to say that these villages (as well as Cordova town) have their share of intrigue and certainly a lot to offer, be it in the way of nature, sport, culture, history and tales. The people — a very interesting mix of Latin-Iberian with strong Arabic roots (seen also in their cuisine) are warm, friendly, welcoming, laid-back, though at the same time hard-working.
However, to finish on a similar spiritual note, I just wanted to share with you the effects of gold leaf behind glass painting, such as a religious-themed one I did yonks ago and am thinking of repeating (this technique — that is, if my glass paints haven’t all dried out over the long, hot 45°C summers!).
I stuck the gold leaf with mixtion behind the glass once I had finished the painting (using glass paints applied via a pipette, and lead contour paste). I then sealed the gold leaf with a couple of coats of shellac varnish. The gold leaf has the beautiful effect of illuminating the jewel-coloured paints when the light or sun falls on it and is reminiscent of the golden letters in theIlluminated Manuscripts which were produced in monasteries between 500 AD and 1600 AD, and the highly-decorated Book of Hours — a devotional book ‘crucial to the development of Gothic illumination’, produced in the 13th century. Really worth a peruse and serving as an inspiration for colours, gold and intricacy!
As I mentioned in my last post —Bunnies and springtime flowers galore! — we have been suddenly inundated (here in the Cordovan hills) by seasonal birds that have made a comeback, as well as destructive caterpillars, lambkins and bunnies.
Two of the birds are regular visitors as you will see in the photos: there is the friendly Great Tit (Parus major) that alights on my window grilles, and though I like to flatter myself by presuming it has especially come to see me, I do know that the real excuse for it hovering by my window is to peck off any insects that have stuck on the glass. It calls out with its strident ‘chee-chee-chee-chee-chee!’
Then there is the hoopoe, that strikingly-coloured Old World bird with its zebra-coloured wings and crest. It is also called Upopa epops, and I used to mistake it for a woodpecker because of its long, curving beak.
This largish fella loves to perch itself on the neighbouring olive tree that grows just outside my bedroom window and carve its beak into the trunk in pursuit of bugs. It doesn’t build a nest, but simply adopts any hollows for its abode. It has a funny, distinctive call which sounds something like ‘Ku ku ku ku’… (pause) ‘ku ku ku’ (pause and repetitio unitatum…).
Interestingly enough, the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament banned this bird as a food source because it belongs to the same group as the vulture, eagle and pelican and therefore considered unclean and forbidden to Jews who deemed it ‘abhorrent and not to be eaten’. However, in 2008 it was declared the national bird of Israel (though the national animal of Israel is the gazelle).
Just to say that I wasn’t able to write a usual mid-week blog because apart from my online teaching and writing work, I’ve been quite busy trying to prepare a few items for my online Etsy shop.
I have been inspired by the sudden explosion of springtime flowers here in Posadas (in the province of Cordova) which has happened a little earlier than usual.
There has also been a return of many species of birds, including my usual visitors, the hoopoe, blue tit and partridges (which will feature in my next blog…), as well as loads of bunnies and hares, little lambs and baby goats (already smelling of acidy milk!).
The things I don’t approve of (that is until they have reached their beautiful butterfly stage) are the caterpillars — we have been inundated with them! They have drilled into my iris flower buds, chomped their way steadily through my broad bean plantlets and are causing havoc to any budding grape vines which haven’t been previously sprayed. Now I don’t like to use pesticides or chemicals, so it is quite a normal sight for me to go rushing out into my garden and vegetable patch first thing in the morning (usually still in my fluffy pyjamas and mules) and run up and down the rows of plants, flicking off these furry creatures.
(I don’t know what our neighbour must think when he spies me from afar with his extra-strong binoculars, which I know he does because he did openly admit it one day when we were sat together having a leche manchada — milky coffee: his excuse is that he likes to invigilate our house as well as his for security reasons, as we do live out in the sticks a bit and we only have mastiffs and an adopted mongrel as alarms.)
Anyway, to cut a long story short, here are a couple of photos explaining what I’ve been up to since last we met…
And here is a merry little poem about spring (yes, I know I’m being a bit premature, but try telling that to the Cordobese flowers and bunnies!)
Spring by William Blake — (London 1757–1827) ‘Poet, painter, engraver, and visionary… considered one of the leading lights of English poetry’ — The Poetry Foundation.
“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
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.
… 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 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).