My photo-guided, very rainy walk to the Roman quarry in Posadas (Cordova)

Hi folks! I hope you’re all keeping well.

As you might already know from my last blog, the weather here in Cordova has done a turn. From the 38° C hot, desert-like conditions to today’s 23° C thunder and rain.

The rain has been very heavy, so I did the thing that seemed most logical to me, which was to go for a walk. You know — ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ sort of thing. (Or in my case, ‘mad dogs and Englishwomen’.) But at least I went armed with an undersized, telescopic umbrella the diameter of which wouldn’t even span my shoulders — and clad in a skimpy muscle tee-shirt despite the gale-force winds.

It had been a long time since I visited the Roman quarry, Cantera Honda, and being a former geologist, I was dying to delve back in the past. A past where after the sea receded from this part of the land in Cretaceous times, the ancient civilisations moved in: Stone Age man, the Celtiberians, Phoenicians, Romans, Moors etc. They left their mark upon the land — higher up on the ridge of the hills there are Stone Age dolmens, while lower down, the Romans quarried the land for stone from which they hewed out pillars that were then used in many of their palaces, temples and buildings. The pillars were rolled down the hill, carted by donkeys and loaded onto boats that then navigated their way along the Guadaquivir River eastwards to Cordova or westwards to Seville. (There are also many other mines in the vicinity of Roman, Moorish and modern age. More about that in another blog.)

Anyway, to cut a long story short, being an enthusiast of geology, culture and history, I thought I would mosey on down there, take some unprofessional, blurry photos in the rain which I could then share with you. I hope you enjoy my ‘walk’!

WARNING: There are quite a lot of photos, and they are rather grey because of the grey weather!   

I left home when there seemed to be a ceasefire from the heavy showers
I parked alongside my son’s olive grove, but by this time it had already started spitting. The earth was red from the earlier rain
The path passed by mature olive trees, soon to be harvested…
…and by the many dwarf palms that populate these lower footslopes of the Sierrezuela. (You can eat their berries)
The colours became deeper as the sky gradually became more overcast.
This was the sky that was behind me, but steadily moving in my direction…
…but ahead of me, towards the ‘finca’ planted with new olive trees, things looked clearer.
I passed by loads of giant fennel which smelled so fennelly and aromatic after the rain
And there are wild fig trees growing straight out of cracks in the bedrock
I continued to walk westwards along this path, though the light became dimmer
I passed the bordering palm trees
I paused to look backwards over my shoulder, and I saw how the thunder clouds were quickly catching up with me. There was just one single beam of angelic light that was focusing down onto the village of Posadas in the distance
Onwards I pressed. I reached the sign directing me right to ‘Cantera Honda
and then a few steps ahead I came to the first ancient Roman column that had, with time, become half-buried in earth
And then there was a second just lying under a large pistacia bush
This poster told me I was now close to the quarry Cantera Honda (which is located on the local footpath of the Roman Paterna route)
I reached the entrance of the quarry, and yes, it was raining quite heavily now! (Nothing like taking photos in the rain!!)
Old columns and pillars hewn out from the quarry walls and shaped in rounded form by the Romans were strewn everywhere. (And now it was pouring — you can see the lines of rain if you look at the fig tree in the centre back)
More broken cylindrical rock up the side of the quarry (and more rain too, also noticeable !)
Above the quarry, broken columns just scattered the place, carelessly abandoned as if the Romans (or their slaves rather) had just upped it and left
and more broken columns…
…and yet more
and even more…still having kept their recognisable form after 2000-odd years. (If only stone could talk!)
I was up at the top of the quarry (being careful not to slip — there is no fence) — and by now it was pelting (as you can see in the photo)
I was thoroughly drenched by now despite my measly umbrella, and my photos were becoming increasingly blurry, so I decided that it was time to turn around and leg it back…
I pussyfooted over the squidgy puddles and fast-running rivulets
..and with every footstep I became increasingly wetter — and so did my fox!
The fields took on another semblance than that of before — new rivulets, and the higher fields awash with water: (talk about soil erosion!)
I headed back as fast as I could under the rumbling, menacing sky
…until soon I reached my haven. (At least the rains had washed it clean — about the first good wash it’s had all summer — I hate washing cars!!!)
I thought of taking my wet, muddy trousers off, but then again I thought, ‘Better not in case the ‘trafico’ road police are there doing spot checks on the cars. Could be embarrassing… but then I could always reply in my Englishy accent: “¡Oh, lo siento! No sé…” — pronounced, “Oh, low sientow! Know say”, meaning “Oh, I’m sorry! I don’t know…”
And just as I started to drive off, the skies started clearing. Sod’s law!

However, it was an enjoyable morning when all said and done, and I’ve been able to share my experience and photos with you, which I hope you’ve enjoyed.

If something can be learned from my little escapade it’s this: have a nice mug of steaming Tetley’s as soon as you get back indoors (the tea that is, not the beer!).

Well, at least I won’t be needing a shower tonight!

Thank you for visiting. If you like what you have read, then you might want to read some more. My book An English Lady in Cordova – the Alternative Guide is available from here. (I’ve finally learnt how to do the ‘Here’ thing!)

I welcome your comments and questions.

Take care and bye for now! xxx

More of my neighbours (here in the countryside of Posadas, Cordova)

Hello friends! This is just a quick, short post as I couldn’t resist sharing with you a few photos of my neighbour that visited me yesterday evening.

And here’s the little fella…

 The praying mantis. Their triangular heads with bulging eyes are supported on flexible necks
Not one of my favourite neighbours — they give me the heebie-jeebies…
… even though they were considered by ancient civilizations to have supernatural powers
Their forelegs are greatly enlarged and adapted for catching and gripping prey

Meanwhile, there was some interest from my felines, Little Grey and Handbag, who spied him from near and afar. (‘Din-dins?’ they wondered)…

‘I can see you, but you can’t see me! Mmmmm — yummy!’
‘Is it din-dins already?’

…but then there was Ginger who just couldn’t give a monkey’s…

Well, that’s all for now. As usual, I always welcome any comments or questions.

Hope this finds you in good health and spirits — bye for now! x

PS. If you’d like to read more of my stories, then you could check out my books: An English Lady in Cordova — the ‘Alternative’ Guide, or if you like juvenile fantasy/fiction, then Edward’s Secret and the Enchanted Throne might be just the ticket for you… (Both available together with my art work on my Etsy online shop: https://www.etsy.com/es/shop/GillysWork?ref=search_shop_redirect — the hand-decorated bottles are my friend’s work.)

What I’ve been up to these days (in and around my country abode of Posadas in Cordova)

Hi folks! Firstly, I hope this finds you all in good health and spirits — these are difficult and testing times that we are living. We all have to get on as best we can and keep our spirits up, not just for ourselves, but those around us. After all, we are all brothers and sisters, aren’t we?

Anyway, I haven’t written for a while because I have fallen in love…

… fallen in love with these acrylic paint pens that I bought a little time ago and I just can’t be parted from them…

They are waterproof and non-toxic

So I wanted to share with you some of the things that I’ve painted since last I wrote…

Some of the smaller ‘golden’ stones with the flower motifs would be good as mosaic pieces, while the larger ones could serve as paperweights. I have written a description of where I got the stone from on the back, as a memento:–

Though the paint is water-resistant, I will be varnishing them before I then put them up for sale on my online shop and also a tourist shop in the Judería (Old Jewish Quarters) in Cordova town — that is, when the shop reopens again. Fingers crossed! (If you’re interested in any, then do let me know!)

We had a couple of promising cooler days last week where the temperatures only reached 33° C (= 91.4° F) so I painted outside in my D-garden. As you can see, I had some help (?) from my faithful friends, Sebastian and Little Grey.

However, temperatures have since risen to the 38° C mark (104° F), so I paint upstairs in my craft room, surrounded by heaps of inspiration, even if it is a little noisy due to the whirring and whining of the two inverters that have just been screwed to the wall and coupled up with the solar panels we have. (The price of electricity is EXORBITANT in Spain, notably so if you have 3-phase agricultural supply like we have. Our socialist president, Pedro Sanchez, really should do something about it, especially if he wants to win the next elections, which might be sooner than he thinks due to his handling of the Covid situation.)

Anyway, since painting stones has also involved quite a bit of sitting down, I decided that it was high time I went for a brisk walk, heat or no heat. So being a Sunday, I got up quite late, at around 8. (Also I slept late not only because of the evening heat that lingers, but because these days I usually end up doing some time of night-time vigil, watching over my vegetable patch as the wild boars still loom large. I usually hear the familiar grunts, but luckily the vegetables have remained unscathed. Fingers crossed again!)

And the aubergine’s steadily and safely growing, away from the boars’ tusks (even if a little out of focus!)

So I just thought I’d share with you a couple of photos from my dry, dusty walk in the neighbouring hills of the Sierrezuela. (If you’d like to know more about this area or see more photos, then you can check out some of my earlier blogs with Sierrezuela in the title. Sorry, still haven’t worked out how to put ‘Here’ to direct you straight to the link, unlike the many other of you who have managed to work it out…)

Last but not least, here are a couple of photos of last evening’s sunset.

Well, I think that’s all for now. Thank you for reading and as usual I welcome any of your comments or questions.

Bye for now — take care! xxx

Goats, goats and yet more goats! (My country abode in Posadas, Cordova)

Who needs a lawnmower when you live in the country?…

Watch out for those olives on the trees! These animals will stop at nothing!

And make sure you leave in plenty of time in case you get held up by a tribe of goats crossing your path!

Thank you for visiting. Hope this finds you in good health and spirits!

A beautiful surise over the olive trees! (Posadas, Cordova)

A beautiful sunrise! (Photo: Talib Mir)

Hi folks — hope this finds you all well!

I couldn’t resist posting this photo of the early sunrise. It was taken at a low level from between some olive trees.

Needless to say that I didn’t take the photo, but it was shot by my son from his olive grove, using his Samsung Galaxy A51 .

He went there early in the morning because he had to run nitric acid through all the watering system which cleans out any lime deposits that can block the watering holes. The finca is quite large, about 6 hectares and supports a few thousand olive trees (the alberquina variety, which is used for making olive oil). They are planted in long rows which were dug out by the tractor, using its GPS so that they came out dead straight and symmetrical.

The land being ploughed a couple of years ago with the irrigation pipes being laid (via GPS). Rich red, silty earth. The pine trees in the background form part of the Sierrezuela and the National Park of Hornachuelos

The trees are only two and a half years old (ahhh — sweet!), but already have quite a few olives, perhaps about 5 kilos worth per tree. (A mature tree can produce about 40 to 50 kilos). This year they’ll have to be pruned with all the side branches cut away, just leaving two or three main branches. The finca is watered via a well, and the pump uses electricity supplied by solar panels — six of them, though one was stolen!

Looking down from the footslopes of the Sierrezuela hills towards the young olive grove in the background and across to the plains of the Guadalquivir Valley

It is in a pretty location, just on the lower footslopes Sierrezuela hills which form part of the vast National Park of Hornachuelos, overlooking the plains of the Guadalquivir Valley. (To read more about the Sierrezuela you can see my earlier blogs, eg. https://anenglishladyincordova.home.blog/2020/02/05/the-sierrezuela-posadas-cordoba-spain/)

The young olive trees are in the background. Photo taken in early spring when the almonds were in flower. There are dwarf palms growing in the foreground

As you probably know already Andalusia is full of olive trees, many of them ancient, dating a thousand years old and going back to Roman and Phoenician times — and since these early times, oil has been referred to as ‘golden liquid’.

It’s a shame that the US importation tariffs on oil from Spain (and not Italy) are so high — this has really hit hard the olive farmers who live and serve others through this hard work…

And here are some of the olive trees that grow on our land. They are as old as the hills…

(Photo from Canva)

Well, that’s all for today. Thank you for reading! As usual, comments and questions are always welcome. x

When is a donkey not a donkey?

As I was driving down my stony, dusty country lane on my way to Posadas (Cordova), I passed one of my neighbours:—

Poor guy — there’s not much forage after this hot summer… I’ll have to sling him a bale of hay next time I pass..

And I was immediately reminded of this quote of Idries Shah:

‘A donkey eats a melon, it remains a donkey’ (from The Commanding Self — I think…)

 

 Now I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was dim, because I do hold a higher degree in geology after all and would’ve finished my doctorate had it not been for my unforeseen relocation to Cordova  — but the words in that quote got me wondering a bit…

Does the quote imply that a donkey will stay a donkey even if it eats what humans eat? I.e. you can’t humanise a donkey and some things just won’t change because they are so set in their ways.

Or have I just got the wrong end of the stick?

But if my interpretation’s right, then I beg to differ.

I think donkeys (and other animals and humans) can change and adapt and humanise, and so in this case, though the donkey is still a donkey on the outside, how can we assess his progression, level and consciousness on the inside? Perhaps on the inside he has surpassed being a donkey after all…

(Courtesy of Canva)

Well, it’s all very mind-boggling! All I know is that donkeys do love melons and watermelons just as much as our neighbouring sheep go crazy for oranges!

Anyway, if any of you could shed some light on this matter I’d be very interested in hearing your explanations…

Thank you for visiting me — stay safe and well! x

More of my early day teaching cockups within the Cordovan classroom (part 2)

Wish I could’ve been as cool and composed as this Canva teacher!

Hi folks! I hope this finds you all in good health and spirits.

If you happened to peruse my last blog, you might remember that I was relating some of the embarrassing and awkward moments experienced when teaching in my first years of living as an immigrant in Cordova (well, actually these moments weren’t just related to teaching, but very many other moments of my everyday life — it was a very difficult teething process really!).

The town where it all took place — Cordova. This is the Great Mosque / cathedral situated in the heart of the Juderia (Old Jewish Quarters) — there is also a synagogue close by. (Photo, courtesy of Canva, of course!)

But anyway, as I mentioned last time, I would continue this chapter today. So here goes:—

(Note: as before, this is quite a long blog, so be warned!)

I mentioned that I had difficult controlling some of the students, and some of them would constantly fool around, laugh and talk both under and over my voice and would eternally horseplay around, disturbing the rest of the class.

Although all this happened quite a few years back, it was unfortunately not far back enough for a teacher to be able to take the horse whip to their backsides!

So instead, I went complaining and crying (literally) to Thomas the Boss, who said that he would come in the following day and show me how it should be done.

And that’s just what he did.

He was explaining the work to the students, group by group, but then came the turn of the Terrible Trio, who, doubtless to say, were in full swing of their buffoonery.

There’s nothing like an attentive, respectful student!
Maybe innocent-looking, but NOT so!

Thomas warned me (sotto voce) that we wouldn’t be able to whack them, and that he would use alternative, but very subtle correction techniques.

I watched on enthralled as he placed himself very close to the ringleader, Santiago—so close in fact, that he was actually standing on the boy’s toes; and there he remained, applying a steady but increasing pressure.

(I noticed that as the pressure was gradually increased, the colour from Santiago’s spirited countenance soon started to fade.) The initial smirk on Santi’s face soon changed to uncomfortable surprise, followed by dumbfounded bewilderment, and then eventually a painful grimace with eyes watering. And as Santiago quietened down (illustrating just how well he had learnt his lesson), Thomas gradually released the phalangeal pressure.

However, all this had gone unnoticed by his accomplice Diego, who was still twittering and giggling and playing the right idiot behind Thomas’s back. So without any warning, Thomas turned around, gave him a glowering look and then suddenly picked up his pencil case and flung it across the room. It flew the whole length of the class before smashing against the blackboard where it crashed loudly upon the ground. The whole class was stupefied. The look of horror on Diego’s face seemed to express that it was he and not his pencil case that had suffered such cruel injury.

So from that day, the Trio Ring was disbanded and I never had any more problems with the students—no rude twittering from the back of the class nor any further degradation.

And as for the third accomplice, Mateo, well, there was not much needed there, because after having witnessed the fate of his accomplices he just cowered in the corner.

But it’s not just the rude sniggers, giggles and twitters, nor simply the general demolition of the teacher’s ego that takes place within those four imprisoning walls of the classroom. Accidents will happen too! Well, you know how kids, when bored or restless either raise their hands to ask to go to the toilet, or to drink water from the fountain in the patio. Also, it is not uncommon that they ask permission to leave their desks to come to the front of the class to sharpen their pencils over the bin that lies just to one side of the blackboard. All of these tactics were regular occurrences with my class, and when one left to go to the toilet or drink water, they all soon followed suit, dribbling steadily out of the classroom door. (I, to be honest, was thankful for the momentary respite!)

‘¡Por favour, seño! ¿Puedo ir a beber agua?’ (‘Please teacher… Can I go and drink water?’)

Or ‘¡Porfa señorita! ¡Tengo que ir al servicio! ¡No puedo aguantarme más! ¡Me meo…!’ (‘Please Miss. I’ve got to go to the toilet. I can’t wait… I’m peeing in my pants!’)

On one such occasion, Pablo, the darkest-haired and naughtiest of the naughty nine-year olds, not having been the centre of attention for at least five minutes, informed me that he couldn’t copy any of my Lowry matchstick men with their spidery, uphill annotations because his pencil had gone blunt (that is, after he had tried to unscrew all the screws of his desk with it). I acquiesced (not yet having mastered how to say in technical Spanish­: ‘That’s because you have been trying to unscrew all the screws of your desk with it!’).

So Pablo raised himself out of his chair, pushing it harshly backwards so it made a loud, grating noise and came smashing against the desk behind; then feeling satisfied with his great achievement and grinning moronically all around, seeking approval from his peers, he cockily strode out to the front of the classroom. Unfortunately he didn’t notice (since he had his head turned backwards, playing jester to the class) that the front section nearest the blackboard was slightly raised; the toe of his shoe stubbed the step with force and he fell crashing forward, heavily.

Unluckily for him he fell straight on top of the square plastic bin. He fell with such force (he was a rotund lad), that his head broke the corner of the bin, and the next minute there was blood gushing down his face and filling his eyes. I gasped out loudly, crying ‘¡Oh Pablooooo!’ which was followed by more concerned ‘¡Pablo! ¡Pablooooos!’ from the class—but we fell into a real state of shock and disarray when he lifted his blood-drenched head. So bloody was it that I couldn’t even make out whether it was his eye or the brow that was gashed open. Fortunately one of the more intelligent girls, Lucía, was quick to react (while I just stood transfixed to the spot) and she immediately volunteered to inform the caretaker so that he should call for an ambulance. I numbly nodded my head and agreed with a ‘¡Buena idea, Lucía! ¡Rapido!’.

The ambulance arrived soon after, and the two white medics and stretcher-bearer had to push their way through the teachers who had formed a circle around us: they were shaking their heads at me and clicking their tongues while shooting me steely, reprimanding looks. The paramedics lifted the howling Pablo onto the stretcher, jostled him down the corridor then raised him into the screaming ambulance.

Meanwhile, the teachers left the scene of crime and went back to attend to their disciplined broods, during which time my class had completely fallen apart. With ten minutes still for the bell to ring, there was complete pandemonium: the unhinged terrors were rushing about everywhere, tearing up and down the corridors, acting as harbingers of exaggeratedly bad news, some thrusting their heads and shoulders out of the third floor windows to the horror of the on-looking parents who were devotedly waiting in the playground to collect their offspring.

I couldn’t cope with the bedlam any longer—my nerves were sorely frayed and although there was still a good ten minutes to go, I acted rashly: in the interests of my own immediate sanity I made the reckless decision of setting them free early.

However, possessed with a fleeting moment of bravado I put my plan into action and by some compassionate gift bestowed upon me from the Divine, I managed to summon order and get the brats’ attention. I also had to let rip the peppery Spanish swear words which I had so dutifully rehearsed with Josefa, my exchange pal, and which had the immediate result of stunning them into obedience. (Why hadn’t I tried that technique before, I asked myself.)

And so I filed the kids out of the door, then valiantly marched them down the stairs (despite my knocking knees). I led them to the main entrance hall with my head held high and lower jaw slightly clenched in the pretence that my conduct had been unimpeachable.

A crowd of over-anxious mothers and staunch grandparents (raised in the times of Generalissimo Franco) were there to meet me and I could tell from the accusing look in their eyes that they would not be easily appeased. I was immediately met with their incriminating reproaches and wagging fingers, and unfortunately my ‘Andaluz’ dialect was sufficiently advanced as to understand their complaints about me releasing the children far too early; they were also stressing the nearness and danger of the adjacent dual-carriageway. (At that point I hoped that once again a crack in the floor would open up and devour me.)

I was well and truly cornered by the sea of impassable patriarchs and matriarchs, not to mention the teachers behind me and the unruly mob spilling over to my sides. I took a deep breath before then gabbling out with an exaggerated English accent some pathetic explanations and apologies; then I broke my way through the parental wall and went running over to the howling ambulance. Before I reached the unnerving vehicle the sirens had been silenced and I looked on as the paramedics were attending to the wicked imp, Pablo.

It didn’t take long to realise that he had been dramatising his semi-conscious state which, as the doctor informed me, had been only a light giddiness caused by the sight of his own blood. I saw too that the supposed gash that had caused the abundant blood flow was in fact a fine but rough nick which, because of its position directly on top of the superciliary arch, had caused the steady rivulet of blood. It had since been cleaned and staunched and made neat by a silver-coated bandage. No stitches were needed!

One of the doctors then turned their attention to me, and noting my heightened state of anxiety realised that I must be the ‘profesora inglesa’. He gave me a pitying look as he took my blood pressure (which measured 200/98 instead of my usual 120/60) and so ordered me to sit down.

He then reassured me that Pablo was perfectly alright and that his father (that giant of a man who was steadily approaching me) would be coming along to fetch him.

I faltered as I got up to meet Pablo’s father, and was surprised that instead of being angry, he stretched out his huge, open hand to shake mine and introduced himself as ‘el padre de Pablo’ (in an almost apologetic tone and with a look of resignation on his face). It seemed to denote that his son’s behaviour was the usual attitude. I told him that it was I who was very sorry for what had happened, ‘¡Oh lo siento!….’.

I also seized the opportunity to complain that I was having great difficulty with the boy. ‘¡Es que estoy teniendo muchas dificultadades con su hijo!’ — little Pablo was always fooling around and disturbing the rest of the class, or he would run tirelessly up and down the rows of desks sweeping all their contents onto the floor…

The father listened quietly and then bowed his giant body down a little to my level and said (with tears glistening in his eyes) that he was very sorry for his son’s behaviour, and that he too had had great difficulty handling him since the mother had recently passed away: she had died of cancer just a month ago.

I felt shell-shocked. I was so sad and sorry that I just managed to mutter the words:

‘¡Lo siento de verdad! ¡Cúanto lo siento!…’. (‘I’m sorry! I‘m really truly sorry!’)

I thought to myself: ‘Don’t judge others until you really know the truth…’

When Pablo did return to my class the following Wednesday (with the bandage on his eyebrow), I made sure not to give him any chance of misbehaving: I kept him close to me by the side of my desk and kept him more than busy with helping rub out the blackboard or draw the matchstick men for me (which turned out much better versions than my own). He also handed out papers and collected the flash cards and other such teaching paraphernalia. He progressed well with this new position of responsibility and looked forward to these classes where he was now respected. The other students were not jealous nor felt any favouritism, and being Spanish, were wholly compassionate towards him.

So all ended up well in the end!

I hope that you have enjoyed reading about my early teaching exploits!

Thank you for visiting — stay well x

My early day teaching cock-ups within the Cordovan classroom (part 1)

My early (and memorable!) days of teaching in Cordovan schools (On the RHS, a stork, common feature here; below, a typical Andalusian courtyard; and at the bottom, the richly gilded mihrab of the Great Mosque / cathedral)

Hi folks! I’m back again, but this time with something a little different (and longer, be warned!).

I was lying in bed last night, and as the hands of the clock reached three a.m. I was still struggling with sleep. Thoughts and ideas were whizzing about my brain — designs for my next painting projects, creative ideas, poems I was going to write, books I was going to publish, murals I would paint, online shops I would set up, antiques I would buy, vintage I would sell, furniture I would upcycle etc., etc., etc. So this morning, after my near-sleepless night and with a large mug of Tetley’s in hand (the tea, not the beer) I decided that first, I would like to share with you some of my early embarrassing experiences that I suffered when I first moved out here to Cordova.

(As you might already know, I was born in London then moved over to this part of Andalusia some thirty years ago. It was extremely difficult for me for quite a long time! A lot of my experiences are recounted in my illustrated book An English Lady in Cordova — the ‘Alternative’ Guide’.)

The Great Mosque / Cathedral of Cordova

I used to work as a geologist but once I came over here, had to retrain as an English teacher. I was employed by an academy and generally I had a trying time, not even having mastered the Spanish language as yet. I now teach privately as well as work as a translator and artisan. So if you’d like to share some of my embarrassing experiences, then please read on!

Blunders within a classroom in the Judería (Jewish Quarters) of Cordova — Part 1

Speaking Spanish and Andalus correctly took its time. During that time there were huge bungle-ups that lead to misinterpretations which were commonly taken as suggestive innuendos. This was often the case when giving private classes from home. But these verbal shortcomings were not only confined to my sitting room in the rickety old house in the Jewish Quarters, nor to the shops, bars, exchange students or the professional adults who perched uncomfortably on nursery chairs, but also extended to and positively flourished within the classrooms of primary and secondary schools. My experiences as a comprehensive school teacher (a profession definitely not destined for me!) were, to say the least—harrowing!

My teaching work in these unforgiving learning centres was arranged by Thomas, a youngish English teacher who had come over to Cordova, fallen in love with an attractive, charming Cordovan lass, married her and then stayed. They took up residence in his mother-in-law’s flat, and she in turn looked after the newly-weds and then later, the two children they had. Thomas was very dedicated to his profession, and by hiring on native English speakers (through advertising in reputable papers like The Times and The Guardian), set up his own team of teachers who he would train before then dispatching them off to various learning centres in Cordova. And I formed part of such a team.

We were a motley lot really, a pleasant enough bunch—an interesting array of innocents who ranged from me (a former geologist with previous work experience with a petroleum company) to a very posh, graphic art graduate with a pronounced lisp. Needless to say, she was assigned all the arty tasks, which when transferred to the classroom blackboard had all the children enraptured, eating out of her hand, and therefore learning quickly even though they pronounced the English words in lisping Andalus.

There was also an Australian lad who was fresh over from that far-away isle and who had come to Andalusia with the purpose of furthering his expertise in the Flamenco guitar. Like most artists he was very short of funds, and being unable to afford to pay for any lodgings, set up his home in one of the disused and dilapidated Moorish watermills that peppers the banks of the Guadalquivir. (I think it was the Albolafia Watermill—the one which The Catholic Queen Isabella in the 16th century ordered to be partially dismantled because the sound of its turning disturbed her sleep.) There Georgie would doze, upon tufts of dried weeds and clumps of hay, rubbing shoulders with water rats, lizards, snakes and pigeons that cooed from rickety, wooden rafters.

The Mosque / Cathedral in the background and the Guadalquivir River in the foreground, declared a Site of Community Interest and ecological niche

Not only did he arrive with insufficient funds, but also with just the clothes that he had on his back and the flip-flops that shod his feet. This look didn’t help him much in the classroom, compounded by the fact that he had longish, gypsy-style hair faithful to the Flamenco that he practised; and he was as skinny as a rake, with upper torso bent over like a reed blown by the sirocco wind. Neither was he very convincing in front of the Spanish teachers who particularly liked decking up to the nines (something that caused me enormous stress when I taught, as I also had a limited repertoire, and being a sporty, earthy Sagittarian, preferred the more casual look like my Top Shop navy blue plimsolls. But that said, the kids loved my less-rigid, non-creaky look).

However, Thomas our employer, having two young children of his own and being a good-natured soul supplied Georgie with a few of his own suits and some pairs of shoes, and invited him to join them for lunch every day (prepared by his over-maternal mother-in-law). He often came to eat with us too, but refused to stay in our hostel for free, preferring to shun charity, maintain his pride, and live freely in the watermill tower alongside the Guadalquivir fauna.

He continued teaching, which he found an increasingly uphill task as he never quite came to terms with the Spanish language, except for words such as ‘ritmo, son, compás, Bulerias, Solerias,’ and ‘¡Callaros! ¡Hijos de bastardos!’—the first five being musical terms, but the last expression translating as ‘Shut up you sons of bast***ds!’.

Needless to say, Georgie-boy didn’t last too long in this newly-adopted teaching profession. His mother soon came to visit, and when after giving him the once-over, whisked him back to Australia where she could shower upon him all the love and care that her over-sensitive son (now suffering from a fully-fledged bronchitis that was ripening into pneumonia) needed. When I had lunch with them I could see how attached to his mother he really was. She reassured him that she had already arranged private classes back at home with a true Andalusian flamenco teacher. It was sad to see him go—we had all grown fond and protective of him, despite his particular way of addressing his more bothersome students. He was allowed to take the suits back with him, but he refused the shoes as he had never quite got used to the rigid things, and when going to school to teach, instead of wearing those unorthodox flip-flops of his, he just went barefoot instead!

I must admit that teaching in schools was for me, quite a trying experience. I am, or rather was (at the tender age of twenty-six) a fairly shy and reserved creature, not at all the sort who relishes being in the limelight. Nor am I commanding or authoritative. Even when I sternly reprimand Solomon my mastiff, he just falls over onto his back, zigzags this way then that, forelegs pulled up to his triple chin, paws slanting forward, tongue lolling from the side of his gummy jaws and eyes swivelling in playful delight. So you can imagine what I am like with kids!

Solomon — our soppy mastiff

But returning to the classroom: my first encounter at the start of that inauspicious September was horrific! We were given one of the most important pieces of advice and teaching tools by Thomas which was: ‘Do not smile at the students before Christmas!’

So off we went, suitably armed with the indispensable tool that was supposed to ensure the safeguard of one’s self, one’s dignity and one’s pride, while also serving as a buffer against the humiliation, mortification and general abasement of the recently-imported, noviciate-teacher. Thus girded, I prepared myself for battle. Inhaling deeply I bravely entered the Year Eight Class of Espinar Primary Comprehensive School, down by the Corredera (which used to be the site of bullfights and executions!).

Now this area was at the time a marginal area, and accommodated the most ‘hardiest’ of children—those with strong and robust personalities (at least, stronger and more robust than mine!); and regular bullying had only intensified this ‘hardy’ nature of theirs, making some of the brutes even more brutish.

The minute I walked into that classroom and pronounced the words, ‘Good morning! I am your new English teacher!’ there was a nudging, tittering, giggling and sniggering all around. I tried to keep steady and not allow myself to break out into one of my nervously-English, wavering smiles. So I continued: ‘My name is Gillian!’

I announced this bravely, while over-exaggeratedly gesticulating towards myself in an attempt to clarify the meaning.

By this time some of the bolder lads had already started imitating me, producing a rapid succession of strange noises that sounded like ‘cha cha cha cha cha…’ (ad nauseam).

I cleared my throat awkwardly and just pretended that I hadn’t heard these obstreperous creatures. Some of the other more serious students were telling them to ‘¡Calláros de una puta vez!’ (meaning something like ‘Shut the f*** up!’). And so it was on these more serious and willing students that I focused.

After having gone round them one by one, getting them to tell me their names—some of which I made the mistake of translating into English, which proved to be another source of either ridicule or joy, depending on the name: for example, ‘Mary of the Sorrows’ or ‘Immaculate Conception’, or even ‘Hyacinth’ for one devilish-looking lad—we then set to, making name badges (for I was never very good at remembering foreign names and usually resorted to the true Spanish way of calling all females either María or ‘niña’ and all males, José or ‘niño’).

When it came to my turn to write my name, I was surprised that once again there was hearty sniggering and jeering all around as they pointed to my name badge. I didn’t appreciate at the time what was so funny, and it was only later when I had acquired a deeper understanding of Spanish phonetics that the reason came down on me like a clanger. It was the first few letters ‘Gilli…’ that had triggered the snorts and chortles, because in Spanish the soft ‘Gi’ doesn’t exist and is pronounced instead as ‘He’; and ‘ll’ as ‘ri’ so, that in all its entirety, ‘Gilli’ is pronounced ‘Hiri’—which in Spanish is short for ‘¡gillipollas!’, meaning ‘idiot!’. So for them, my name was ‘IDIOT’!

When I eventually came to understand this, I immediately changed my name from Gillian (which is generally unpronounceable for Spaniards), to the more or less Spanish equivalent, ‘Julia’ (pronounced ‘Hulia’).

So as you can see, I didn’t really get off on the right footing. However, I must have had some charisma because those that took to me, really did like me: they worked ever so hard, achieving good results, drawing me pictures and bringing me presents—an affectionate bunch as Spanish tend to be. But the rotten apples continued rotting on the back benches…

BUT to keep this long blog not so long, I will stop here for now and then continue relating my teaching experiences in a future blog.

Thank you for reading — I hope this finds you in good health and spirits.

(As usual, comments and questions are always welcome.)

My lazy soda bread (from Posadas in the province of Cordova, Andalusia)

Hi folks!

After having realised that I was out of bread and that today is a national holiday in Spain (and not wanting to drive the 9 km down to Posadas village), I decided to make my own. But not wanting the hassle of making it with yeast and all the time that this involves, I thought I’d make my own soda version.

And this is how it turned out:

Sprinkled with coarse salt and drizzled with olive oil

It’s both delicious and nutritious because I have used spelt flour, oats and a handful of nuts, seeds and raisins. Here is the recipe for this variety — (I say ‘this variety’ because every time I make it, I vary it slightly according to what I feel like and what ingredients I have in the pantry. Sometimes I use wholemeal flour as well as spelt, and on other occasions, cumin seeds and lovage, as well as a pinch of matcha powder. Or I add dried thyme and oregano… it’s fun experimenting.)

This time I used:

225g wholemeal and spelt flour, mixed

225g plain flour

1 tsp coarse salt

1 tsp molasses or honey

Handful of oats

Handful of sunflower seeds, chia, linseed and raisins (vary according to your taste)

Pinch of dried oregano, thyme and a little lovage

200 ml milk or buttermilk or soya milk…

200g natural yoghurt

Drizzle of olive oil.

First I stirred all the dry ingredients together then added in the molasses, followed by the yoghurt, milk and a drizzle of olive oil. I carefully drew it all together, kneading very lightly to make a soft, moist ball. I transferred this onto a floured baking tray, keeping a round shape. I then made a light cross on the top with a knife, gently made indentations in the dough with my knuckles (which made the bread less rounded) and sprinkled the top with the coarse salt and drizzled oil on top. I cooked the bread for 35 minutes in the oven (I didn’t use the fan) at 200 °C, until the skewer came out dry when I tested it — (cooking time might vary according to your flour mix and how moist or dry your dough was to begin with and also how deep the bread is.)

When it was cooked, I stood it on a rack to cool. Then after about five minutes, I couldn’t resist delving in!

It is quite a dense, hearty bread — a meal in itself

It is delicious with butter (which I have) and jam (which I don’t have, but I will be making some purple plum jam now that they in season here. I use the same amount of sugar to fruit, or slightly less if I am feeling sugar-conscious — and there’s no need for lemon juice or pectin since the plums have enough of their own pectic acid.)

And now I shall go and have some more bread, butter and jam in front of Agatha Christie’s Five Little Pigs, which stars one of my favourite actors playing the part of Poirot — David Suchard. (When I lived in Sheen, in Greater London, I often came across him in Waitrose, pushing the shopping trolley alongside his wife. He is the same polite, prim character that he portrays in the series.)

Here is the youtube link to the HD film in case you fancy watching it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXUs2CHWJp8

Now I don’t usually lounge around watching TV in the afternoons, but I will today for the following three reasons: 1) to recover from the efforts of cooking and having strained my sciatic nerve after lunging forward in my bed at 4:30 in the morning, trying to find my bedcover because temperatures have cooled off at night; 2) because although I usually Skype my mother at this time (great at closing the gaps, especially now in times of this awful virus), I won’t be skyping today, because she is trying to scare away the mice that she discovered have been steadily working their way through her back-up supplies of olive oil, juice, milk, soap, sponges, toilet rolls etc. that she keeps in the shed; and lastly 3) because it is a national holiday here in Spain, being the Assumption of Our Lady.

Today is an important religious day here in Spain, the Assumption of Our Lady, but unfortunately there will be no processions in the streets this year because of the virus.

So for now, I think I’ll take a leaf out of my cat’s book (this time it’s Ginger) before tucking in! Cheers!

Hope this finds you all in good health and spirits. Take care!

PS. And as usual, any comments or questions always welcome!