The good news is that since the incidence numbers have fallen here in Cordova and the province is now in level 1, things are gradually opening up and there has been more movement on the tourist front. This is also good for me, as the tourist shop in the Judería (Jewish Quarters) which sells locally-crafted items, has also opened. (See photos of the Judería here.)
I regularly place some of my items with them, the latest being a couple of paintings on locally-sourced cork from the oak trees in my neighbouring Hornachuelos Natural Park area — you can read about this area here in case you’re thinking about visiting in the future — after all, it is a place rich in ecological diversity and also boasts a supposedly-haunted monastery).
I have also painted some stones with acrylics and will start my new autumn/winter/Christmassy selection next week.
Though why did I move to Cordova in the first place if I find the summers impossibly hot? Well, you can view my very first blog here for the reason; this also has lots of photos of the historic town and is actually the introduction to my book An English Lady in Cordova — the Alternative Guide(at present available from me).
Anyway, getting back to this morning’s photo — not only is the rich palette of colours inspiring, but you can also just spy the conical hill of Priego, La Tiñosa rising up from the plains that form part of the hilly Sierra Subbética. (The word Subbética has Roman origins and derives also from the Gualdalquivir River, which was then called the River Betis. The present Guadalquivir name is Arabic and harks back to the Moorish occupancy of the Iberian Peninsula, previously named Al-Andalus.) For more photos of the views from my home, you can visit the earlier blog of mine.
Though for now, I’d just like to end this blog with a quote from Jalāl ad-Dīn Mohammad Rūmī’ (30 September 1207 – 17 December 1273), the Persian poet, theologian, scholar and mystic’s,
The Breeze at Dawn
The Breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want. Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open. Don’t go back to sleep.
(Perhaps meaning something like: we can break old habits and tendencies and become the present. We don’t need to fall back into the same old ways…)
That’s all for now folks! Once again, thanks for visiting — and do take care! xxx
Hi folks! Hope this finds you in good health and spirits…
I just wanted to share some dawn clouds with you because this is like sharing the hope and promise that the day might be a little cooler… but actually, this is not so, as the temperatures have been forecast to hit the 48° C (118.4° F mark by next week). Yikes!!!
But, how could I leave off without a poem honouring the clouds. This time, it’s Percy Bysshe Shelley:-
THE CLOUD — Percy Bysshe Shelley
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.
Percy Bysshe Shelley was an English romantic poet, dramatist, essayist and novelist. He was described by American literary critic, Harold Bloom as “a superb craftsman, a lyric poet without rival, and surely one of the most advanced sceptical intellects ever to write a poem.” For more on his biography, you can take a look at this Poetry Foundation link.
Last but not least — though bewarned, this has nothing to do with clouds and Shelley — I have been breaking up this monotony of heat by being frivolous and painting my nails! (See the photos below for proof!!!)
As prewarned, here are my frivolously painted nails (ha ha!) — not the most appropriate for rummaging about in my vegetable patch! However, due to the poor photography you can’t really appreciate them in their full glory, nor could I bear to go out in the heat again to take another photo!!!
Hi folks! I hope that this finds you well despite the difficult times we are all experiencing, one way or another…
I just wanted to share a couple of photos with you (well, three actually!) which prove that it’s not just us here in Posadas who keep cool and hydrated with WATERMELONS…
…but the sheep and cows too!
So if you don’t believe me, below is the proof!
The above farm is situated on the footslopes of the Sierrezuela Park which forms part of the large Nature Reserve of Hornachuelos, which is an ecological haven boasting a wide variety of fauna and flora. There are also great walks/hikes/running circuits/adventure park, and you can also appreciate the ancient history via its Stone Age dolmens (as well as enjoy the bar, restaurant or do-it-yourself picnic/BBQ area). To view more about this area you can visit my previous blogs, here and here.
But coming back to the watermelons… they might seem just simply watery, juicy and refreshing, but actually they’re packed full with goodness. Here are some of their plus points:
1) They keep you hydrated due to their high water content.They contain nutrients and beneficial plant compounds.
2) One cup (154 grams) of watermelon has many nutrients, including these vitamins and minerals:—
Vitamin C: 21% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
Vitamin A: 18% of the RDI
Potassium: 5% of the RDI
Magnesium: 4% of the RDI
Vitamins B1, B5 and B6: 3% of the RDI
3) Watermelons contain compounds that may help prevent cancer, such as cucurbitacin E and lycopene (though study results are mixed).
4) They may improve heart health as they contain several heart-healthy components, including lycopene, amino acid citrulline and other vitamins and minerals.
5) They can lower inflammation and oxidative stress because lycopene and vitamin C are anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Inflammation is linked to many chronic diseases.
6) They may help prevent macular degeneration also due to their lycopene content.
7) Watermelons may help relieve muscle soreness — the amino acid citrulline may be partially responsible for its effect of easing this tenderness.
8) They are good for skin and hair because they contain vitamins A and C.
9) They can improve digestion as they are fibre-rich, and last (but not least),
10) being rich in lycopene, your body’s arginine levels are increased, which helps up the body’s fat-burning potential. At the same time the juicy red fruit helps the body burn fat, it also builds lean muscle. Just 1 cup a day does the trick.
CONCLUSION: it’s no wonder they feed watermelons to the sheep and cattle!!!
But now I’d like to finish off with a photo that has absolutely nothing at all to do with watermelons… my new kitten (one of four, but fifteen cats in total!).
Thank you for reading! As usual, comments and questions are always welcome.
Hi folks! I hope this finds you well and not melting in the heat like me — (hence my sporadic posts during these sizzling days of summer…)
I just wanted to share my lovely photo of this beautiful foxglove…
The scientific name for this flower is the Latindigitalis, meaning ‘finger’. The old German vernacular name that harks back to the 16th century is Fingerhut, translating literally as ‘finger hat’, though actually meaning ‘thimble’. The Olde English name, foxes glofa/eechoes the folk myth that foxes actually wore gloves on their paws so they could move silently when hunting their prey! Another more intimidating name for this deadly flower was ‘witch’s glove’.
Later names that emerged in the 19th century name were ‘folks’ glove’, where ‘folk’ means fairy and ‘foxes-glew’, meaning ‘fairy music’.
Foxgloves were also grown in medieval gardens and the flowers were dedicated to the Virgin Mary — here they were called ‘Our Lady’s Gloves’.
Apart from being very pretty, the flowers are also used for drug preparations that contain cardiac glycosides. The plant is very toxic to humans and other animals, and consumption can even lead to death. (I think this was one of the favourite toxins that wives would use in the olden days, before the advent of forensic science, to gradually poison problematic husbands!)
As to the symbolism of the foxgloves, they represent a whole host of themes ranging from pride, energy, magic, ambition, insincerity, intuition and creativity, to productivity, communication, cooperation, and confidence too (so that’s quite a load, isn’t it?!)
And last but not least, here’s a poem written by Mary Webb about the Foxglove:-
The foxglove bells, with lolling tongue, Will not reveal what peals were rung In Faery, in Faery, A thousand ages gone. All the golden clappers hang As if but now the changes rang; Only from the mottled throat Never any echoes float. Quite forgotten, in the wood, Pale, crowded steeples rise; All the time that they have stood None has heard their melodies. Deep, deep in wizardry All the foxglove belfries stand. Should they startle over the land, None would know what bells they be. Never any wind can ring them, Nor the great black bees that swing them– Every crimson bell, down-slanted, Is so utterly enchanted
Mary Gladys Webb was an English romantic novelist and poet of the early 20th century, whose work is set chiefly in the Shropshire countryside and among Shropshire characters and people whom she knew. Many of her books were dramatised, including Precious Bane (one of my favourite books!). For a fuller biography, see thisMary Webb Society link
And to finish with, here’s another photo of my cat chilling out in the 43° C temperatures amidst the aloe vera plant.
Well, that’s all for now — thanks for visiting, take care! xxx
Sorry, it’s short and sweet this time, because at 45° C (113° F) it’s far too hot to sit up and write. (The air conditioning has to go off at 5:30 in the afternoon because we rely on solar panels and electricity’s limited!…..)
Even the cat had to find a cool place to sit!…
“Cats have it all — admiration, an endless sleep, and company only when they want it.”
—Rod McKuen(April 29, 1933 – January 29, 2015) (American singer-songwriter, actor and poet, Stanyan Street & Other Sorrows)
Hi folks! I’m back again and I hope this finds you all well!
I just wanted to share this photo with you: it is what my son was confronted with when opening the well on his olive-tree finca. It might not be very clear at first sight, but if you take a closer look you should be able to see a nice, fat, juicy, khaki-coloured snake coiled up and half-hiding under one of the water tubes. Luckily it didn’t raise its ugly head (poor thing!) so the well lid was immediately dropped back down and hasn’t been reopened in a while. I’m not exactly sure as to what type of snake it is (there are no diamond markings on its back so it’s not a poisonous viper). It could be the mildly venomous Malpolon monspessulanus (Culebra bastarda — sounds rude, doesn’t it?!), or a Macroprotodon (Western false smooth snake), with a pretty harmless bite.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, and before moving onto another longish story (if you have the time and patience!), this event brought to mind one ofIdries Shah’s tales, entitled The Man, the Snake and the Stone, taken from his Caravan of Dreams.
So here’s the man:
And here’s the story:—
The Man, the Snake and the Stone — Idries Shah, Caravan of Dreams
One day a man who had not a care in the world was walking along a road. An unusual object to one side of him caught his eye. ‘I must find out what this is,’ he said to himself.
As he came up to it, he saw that it was a large, very flat stone.
‘I must find out what is underneath this,’ he told himself. And he lifted the stone.
No sooner had he done so than he heard a loud, hissing sound, and a huge snake came gliding out from a hole under the stone. The man dropped the stone in alarm. The snake wound itself into a coil, and said to him:
‘Now I am going to kill you, for I am a venomous snake.’
‘But I have released you,’ said the man, ‘how can you repay good with evil? Such an action would not accord with reasonable behaviour.’
‘In the first place,’ said the snake, ‘you lifted the stone from curiosity and in ignorance of the possible consequences. How can this now suddenly become “I have released you”?’
‘We must always try to return to reasonable behaviour, when we stop to think,’ murmured the man.
‘Return to it when you think invoking it might suit your interests,’ said the snake.
‘Yes,’ said the man, ‘I was a fool to expect reasonable behaviour from a snake.’
‘From a snake, expect snake-behaviour,’ said the snake. ‘To a snake, snake-behaviour is what can be regarded as reasonable.’
‘Now I am going to kill you,’ it continued.
‘Please do not kill me,’ said the man, ‘give me another chance. You have taught me about curiosity, reasonable behaviour and snake-behaviour. Now you would kill me before I can put this knowledge into action.’
‘Very well,’ said the snake, ‘I shall give you another chance. I shall come along with you on your journey. We will ask the next creature whom we meet, who shall be neither a man nor a snake, to adjudicate between us.’
The man agreed, and they started on their way.
Before long they came to a flock of sheep in a field. The snake stopped, and the man cried to the sheep:
‘Sheep, sheep, please save me! This snake intends to kill me. If you tell him not to do so he will spare me. Give a verdict in my favour, for I am a man, the friend of sheep.’
One of the sheep answered:
‘We have been put out into this field after serving a man for many years. We have given him wool year after year, and now that we are old, tomorrow he will kill us for mutton. That is the measure of the generosity of men. Snake, kill that man!’
The snake reared up and his green eyes glittered as he said to the man: ‘This is how your friends see you. I shudder to think what your enemies are like!’
‘Give me one more chance,’ cried the man in desperation. ‘Please let us find someone else to give an opinion, so that my life may be spared.’
‘I do not want to be as unreasonable as you think I am,’ said the snake, ‘and I will therefore continue in accordance with your pattern, and not with mine. Let us ask the next individual whom we may meet – being neither a man nor a snake – what your fate is to be.’
The man thanked the snake, and they continued on their journey.
Presently they came upon a lone horse, standing hobbled in a field. The snake addressed him:
‘Horse, horse, why are you hobbled like that?’
The horse said:
‘For many years I served a man. He gave me food, for which I had not asked, and he taught me to serve him. He said that this was in exchange for the food and stable. Now that I am too infirm to work, he has decided to sell me soon for horse-meat. I am hobbled because the man thinks that if I roam over this field I will eat too much of his grass.’
‘Do not make this horse my judge, for God’s sake!’ exclaimed the man.
‘According to our compact,’ said the snake inexorably, ‘this man and I have agreed to have our case judged by you.’
He outlined the matter, and the horse said:
‘Snake, it is beyond my capabilities and not in my nature to kill a man. But I feel that you, as a snake, have no alternative but to do so if a man is in your power.’
‘If you will give me just one more chance,’ begged the man, ‘I am sure that something will come to my aid. I have been unlucky on this journey so far, and have only come across creatures who have a grudge. Let us therefore choose some animal which has no such knowledge and hence no generalised animosity towards my kind.’
‘People do not know snakes,’ said the snake, ‘and yet they seem to have a generalised animosity towards them. But I am willing to give you just one more chance.’
They continued their journey.
Soon they saw a fox, lying asleep under a bush beside the road. The man woke the fox gently, and said:
‘Fear nothing, brother fox. My case is such-and-such, and my future depends upon your decision. The snake will give me no further chance, so only your generosity or altruism can help me.’
The fox thought for a moment, and then he said:
‘I am not sure that only generosity or altruism can operate here. But I will engage myself in this matter. In order to come to a decision I must rely upon something more than hearsay. We must demonstrate as well. Come, let us return to the beginning of your journey, and examine the facts on the spot.’
They returned to where the first encounter had taken place.
‘Now we will reconstruct the situation,’ said the fox; ‘snake, be so good as to take your place once more, in your hole under that flat stone.’
The man lifted the stone, and the snake coiled itself up in the hollow beneath it. The man let the stone fall.
The snake was now trapped again, and the fox, turning to the man, said: ‘We have returned to the beginning. The snake cannot get out unless you release him. He leaves our story at this point.’
‘Thank you, thank you,’ said the man, his eyes full of tears.
‘Thanks are not enough, brother,’ said the fox. ‘In addition to generosity and altruism there is the matter of my payment.’
‘How can you enforce payment?’ asked the man.
‘Anyone who can solve the problem which I have just concluded,’ said the fox, ‘is well able to take care of such a detail as that. I again invite you to recompense me, from fear if not from any sense of justice. Shall we call it, in your words, being “reasonable”?’
The man said:
‘Very well, come to my house and I will give you a chicken.’
They went to the man’s house. The man went into his chicken-coop, and came back in a moment with a bulging sack. The fox seized it and was about to open it when the man said:
‘Friend fox, do not open the sack here. I have human neighbours and they should not know that I am co-operating with a fox. They might kill you, as well as censuring me.’
‘That is a reasonable thought,’ said the fox; ‘what do you suggest I do?’
‘Do you see that clump of trees yonder?’ said the man, pointing. ‘Yes,’ said the fox.
‘You run with the sack into that cover, and you will be able to enjoy your meal unmolested.’
The fox ran off.
As soon as he reached the trees a party of hunters, whom the man knew would be there, caught him. He leaves our story here.
And the man? His future is yet to come.
Moral of the story? Perhaps something like: you never know what might be under a rock, or in a clever man’s mind… (although knowing the Sufis, it probably isn’t that simple!)
Well, thank you for bearing with me — take care! xxx
Hello again everyone! Sorry for the break, but as I explained previously I’ve been rather busy translating lately and couldn’t spend more time with my eyes glues to the screen.
However, today I took advantage of the cooler (28 °C) windier weather to go for a long drive up to the local sierra of Hornachuelos to visit a convent, Nuestra Señora de la Sierra in the area of San Calixto, lying almost in the middle of nowhere.
It’s surrounded by vegetation that ranges from open fields, olive groves, shrubs such as wild cistus, pistacia mastic and terebinthus, as well as old holm oak trees and cork oaks that have recently been stripped of their bark. (For more about the vegetation of the Hornachuelos Nature Reserve and its haunted monastery you can see my previous blog.)
The story of this particular convent goes back to the 16th century. It is said to have been founded by two monks who, after wandering the Sierra looking for a suitable place to make their sanctuary, finally came to rest in a hilly area full of thistles (cardos), high above the flood zone of the Bembézar River. Knowledge of their fervorous, holy pursuit spread, and they were soon joined by other hermits.
For shelter, they made a hut out of rockrose branches where they placed their image of Saint Michael. Eventually, in 1543, they founded the Monastery of San Basilio del Tardón. (It is said that Tardon derives from Cardón, which was the name given to this area by the monks. It is a derivative of cardo, or ‘thistle’, and refers to the thistle-covered hill where they lived.)
The monastery was inhabited by monks until 1808. A few years later, Francisco Sánchez, a Knight of the Order of Charles III was granted permission to build a hamlet on all the surrounding (thistly) land of Cardón/Tardón. He named the areaSan Calixto. Over the years the hamlet grew in size, and by the mid-19th century its population rose to a hundred and fifty. The village now boasted its own town hall, prison, communal oven and a posada (an inn). (San Calixto lies at about eleven miles above Hornachuelos, passing the visitor centre, Huerta del Rey.)
However, bit by bit the area and monastery fell into abandonment, perhaps due to its isolated location. It was not until 1940 that the hamlet and all the surrounding areas were bought by the marquis. As a result, the desolated, spiritual ground was resuscitated. This time though, a convent was constructed over the ruins of the ancient monastery, and was baptised Convento de las Carmelitas Descalzas de Nuestra Señora de la Sierra(Convent of the Barefoot Carmelites of Our Lady of the Sierra—a bit of a mouthful!).
Today, the convent serves as a spiritual retreat and tourist attraction, alluring many visitors with its fascinating charm and beauty. Two important guests included the former Belgium monarchs, King Balduino y Queen Fabiola. (They were related to the marquises via Fabiola, who was originally a Madrid-born Spanish aristocrat). The royal couple spent their honeymoon there in 1960.
Additionally, another attraction of this convent is the handiwork products that you can purchase, which are made by the nuns. These ladies-of-the-cloth are extremely talented in needlework and other crafts, employing local materials such as cork from the indigenous alcornoque oak trees, as well as wool, fur and antlers from the animals that inhabit the land. They also grow their own vegetables.
(A little word of advice here: if you do ring at the door of this convent wanting to have a look at their products, don’t be surprised when you are answered by a thin, delicate voice that glides out from the holes in the iron-grate window; it greets the visitor while at the same time pays homage to the Virgin Mary, murmuring piously, ‘Ave María Purissima’, to which the knowledgeable visitor is expected to reply, ‘sin pecado concebida’, meaning ‘conceived without sin’. However, if you are not so well-versed in devotional greetings—like I wasn’t—then you might just reply with an irreverent ‘¡Buenos días!’ So be warned!)
Well, that’s all for now folks! Thanks for bearing with me and my fabulous photography (ha ha!).
What an artistic village Posadas is! As I have mentioned before in my earlier blogs, there is a lot of art and craftwork, needlework, basket weaving, lace-making and crochet going on here (among other creative activities that I might have forgotten to mention). Some of theartwork, can be seen here; and earlier crochet projects (not including the Christmas work because it is out of season), here. Oh — for my crochet and lace-making classes to start once again!
However, in the photo below you can see the most recent example of the group’s crochet work: it is a large cross honouring Our Lady and Her month of May. In fact you can find many crosses that are on display for several days decorating the plazas, streets and shop windows all over Cordova; they are made up of a myriad of sweet-smelling flowers.
I remember often singing Bring flowers of the rarest hymn when I was living in England, since both my primary and secondary schools were catholic. (I also remember dear old Sister Carmela who used to nod off during our history class as she steadily munched her way through her McVitie’s digestives!).
Anyway, I have included the hymn below, for old times’ sake. I wonder how many of you remember it…
Happy month of May to all of you, even if it coming to a close!