Hi folks! I hope you are all coping okay, especially in these worrying and sad times…
I just wanted to share a couple of photos with you from my early morning walk, here in my local countryside of Posadas (a village in the province of Andalusia, lying about 35 miles west of the historic town of Córdoba).
As you can see, I was well-accompanied by my six of my fifteen (I think) cats.
“How we behave towards cats here below, determines our status in heaven.”
— Robert A. Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) an American science fiction author, aeronautical engineer and naval officer. Together with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, he was considered one of the «Big Three» of English-language science fiction authors. His works include Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
When I arrived back, my (destructive) mastiff puppies were only too pleased to help me untie my laces!
«The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven not man’s.»
— Mark Twain; his real name Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), was an American writer, humourist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. He was lauded as the «greatest humourist the United States has produced», and «the father of American literature.” His novels included The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).
(However, judging by the above photo, I’m not so sure about the gentleman bit!)
Before I sign off though, I just wanted to share a site I found and now love on the homemade-crafts Etsy shop, called Costurero Real. No, I’m not promoting myself, nor a friend or relative, but just some lovely hair slides that I came across when looking for a clip for my hair. He or she does some beautiful work, and I’ll be buying the blue butterfly for my hair. It’s so pretty! I love butterflies, and though it might be a bit young for my age, I just can’t resist it! You can see his or her workby clicking here.
(I’m going to order the blue one). They also have leather leaves and moths and butterfly capes! All very lovely and woodlandy!
PS. I hope I’m not infringing any copyrights, but I think it’ll be alright as I am sort-of advertising for them…
Well, that’s all for now. As usual, your comments are always welcome, I love the interaction!
Here is a photo of a cork oak tree taken from my morning’s walk in the countryside of Posadas (Cordova province in Andalusia). The photo’s a bit dark because rain’s expected (at long last, we’re having serious drought here!). You can see the red-brown trunk which has been exposed after the cork has been harvested.
Pigs love to eat the acorns that drop from its boughs:-
To see more photos of the oak trees and the PAINTINGS I do on the cork, you can click here.
I just wanted to share this sunrise photo with you. In the background you can see the impressive, haunted, Christian-cum-Moorish castle of Almodóvar del Río, stage set for various films and ads. These include:
1967, Camelot, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero
1972, the famous Martini advert
1986, Harem / Dardanelos with Ava Gadner, Nancy Traver, Omar Sharif and Silvia Marsó
2002 the children’s Dutch series Pippo
2015, the Russian singer’s Tiger Cave video clip
2019 a Budweiser advert
And more recently, HBO’s Game of Thrones, and chapter 3 of Netflix’s Warrior Nun, as well asvarious documentaries that took place in between.
The castle, its surrounding villages of Almodóvar del Río, Posadas and Hornachuelos that lie in the Guadalquivir Valley close to the historic town of Cordova, are really well-worth a visit! They are steeped in a rich history and culture, and are replete with traditions. The landscape is beautiful too, varying from flat valleys that rise to the imposing Sierra Morena in the north. (You can find a description of these places in my earlier blogs.)
Well, before leaving I would also like to close with a classic poem about Spanish castles, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
Castles in Spain
How much of my young heart, O Spain,
Went out to thee in days of yore! What dreams romantic filled my brain, And summoned back to life again The Paladins of Charlemagne, The Cid Campeador!
And shapes more shadowy than these, In the dim twilight half revealed; Phoenician galleys on the seas, The Roman camps like hives of bees, The Goth uplifting from his knees Pelayo on his shield.
It was these memories perchance, From annals of remotest eld, That lent the colors of romance To every trivial circumstance, And changed the form and countenance Of all that I beheld.
Old towns, whose history lies hid In monkish chronicle or rhyme,– Burgos, the birthplace of the Cid, Zamora and Valladolid, Toledo, built and walled amid The wars of Wamba’s time;
The long, straight line of the highway, The distant town that seems so near, The peasants in the fields, that stay Their toil to cross themselves and pray, When from the belfry at midday The Angelus they hear;
White crosses in the mountain pass, Mules gay with tassels, the loud din Of muleteers, the tethered ass That crops the dusty wayside grass, And cavaliers with spurs of brass Alighting at the inn;
White hamlets hidden in fields of wheat, White cities slumbering by the sea, White sunshine flooding square and street, Dark mountain ranges, at whose feet The river beds are dry with heat,– All was a dream to me.
Yet something sombre and severe O’er the enchanted landscape reigned; A terror in the atmosphere As if King Philip listened near, Or Torquemada, the austere, His ghostly sway maintained.
The softer Andalusian skies Dispelled the sadness and the gloom; There Cadiz by the seaside lies, And Seville’s orange-orchards rise, Making the land a paradise Of beauty and of bloom.
There Cordova is hidden among The palm, the olive, and the vine; Gem of the South, by poets sung, And in whose Mosque Ahmanzor hung As lamps the bells that once had rung At Compostella’s shrine.
But over all the rest supreme, The star of stars, the cynosure, The artist’s and the poet’s theme, The young man’s vision, the old man’s dream,– Granada by its winding stream, The city of the Moor!
And there the Alhambra still recalls Aladdin’s palace of delight; Allah il Allah! through its halls Whispers the fountain as it falls, The Darro darts beneath its walls, The hills with snow are white.
Ah yes, the hills are white with snow, And cold with blasts that bite and freeze; But in the happy vale below The orange and pomegranate grow, And wafts of air toss to and fro The blossoming almond trees.
The Vega cleft by the Xenil, The fascination and allure Of the sweet landscape chains the will; The traveller lingers on the hill, His parted lips are breathing still The last sigh of the Moor.
How like a ruin overgrown With flowers that hide the rents of time, Stands now the Past that I have known; Castles in Spain, not built of stone But of white summer clouds, and blown Into this little mist of rhyme!
A very beautiful poem, encompassing many parts of Spain and touching on its history.
Well, it’s that time of year again! And when I say ‘That time’, I mean olive picking time!
My son has been busy: firstly he and his friend picked some of the trees on the flatter ground around our house. The trees are old and beautiful, what with their greyish, twisted, gnarling trunks — each one different, individual, possessing its own character and personality.
The trees are ‘secano’ meaning dry, not irrigated and are also grown ecologically (no chemicals, pesticides etc.) The variety of olive is ‘lechin’ — this is an ovoidal and slightly asymmetric olive and the leaves are elliptical, short and of medium width. It is considered a variety of rustic olive, with cold tolerance, very good adaptation to limestone soils and very high resistance to drought.
As you can see from the photos, these were picked by hand. The branches were vigorously beaten with long, light and very strong fibreglass poles. The olives fell onto the large nets which were spread around the base of the tree and then these were gathered up and tipped straight into a trailer.
Meanwhile, I looked on eagerly…
The boys worked from 8:30 am to about 5 pm, (stopping to have a hearty lunch of green pepper, onion and nutty macaroni cheese, with homemade chips cooked Italian-style in olive oil and butter and seasoned with plenty of salt, garlic and rosemary; this was followed by a generous chunk of my homemade apple cake, the recipe of which I have included below).
The lunch certainly recharged their batteries, and by the time they finished work, they had picked 550 kilos!!! The following day they drove the olives to the local press in Posadas and the fruit was converted to olive oil — thick, greeny-gold and strong-smelling, still with bits of olive debris floating about which eventually settles to the bottom (i.e. unrefined, first-pressing, virginal and in all its purity — like I used to be!). The booty was equally divided between the two boys, so now we have about 10 x 5-litre bottles of gorgeous oil, which should keep us going for a while!
Last weekend there was more olive picking in my son’s finca (located on the foothills of the Sierrezuela), but this time, because the olive trees are still fairly small, being only three years old and planted as semi-intensive, the tractor was called in to pick them. This was fascinating for me because I have never seen one of these 3 &1/2 m tall giants at work. It passes over the trees and vibrates them with it ‘jaws’ while at the same time, guzzles up all the olives. No wonder these tractors are so expensive — this one’s price was 250.000 € (about £210.000!).
When the deposit is full of olives, it then spews out its contents into the hungry truck that awaits close by.
The work commenced at 8am and by 3 p.m. they finished (just as well, since the tractor charges a hefty price per hour!). Mind you, this will only be the method for the next year or two, while the olive trees can fit under the tractor. The idea is to let these grow tall and big so that they can be picked by hand when they are more mature. I think that the olives weighed in at a handsome 5000, more or less and will also be used for oil. The variety of olive is ‘arberquina’, a smaller, rounder olive that produces a sweet oil with no bitter aftertaste and gives fruity aromas, like banana and apple. It has a soft, sweet aroma.
So we had some enjoyable and profitable days! But not so fast — it’ll be my turn for action soon, once I have picked some olives that have turned from green to black. I will prepare them Greek style, that is by first preserving them under salt for about three weeks (after having previously put a cut in each one), and when they have dried and become all wrinkly, I will wash all the salt away, dry them thoroughly, then pack them into jars and perhaps top with some oil and maybe flavour with oregano. They are delicious! See this link for photos of the process.
Anyway, I think I’ve gone on for long enough for now!
Thank you for visiting! Your comments and/or questions are always welcome…
Today is the day of the immigrant — and this is something I can identify with, as I too am an immigrant. It is something, that once started can be passed on from generation to generation: I emigrated to Cordova due to my husband’s health; my mother immigrated to London from Italy with her parents because of financial reasons — though first they tried their luck in Australia.
When my grandfather went over to Australia a second time with his brother (which entailed a long, arduous journey by boat, lasting a month), my grandmother and mother were due to follow, but unfortunately WWII broke out and they were separated — seven years passed before they were finally reunited, by which time my mother had grown into a young woman and felt her father quite a stranger. In his absence, my great grandfather (her mother’s father) had adopted the role of father and she grew extremely fond of him: he was a loving, sensible and very wise man, so much so that he was elected to be the mayor of their town in the Piemonti region. When he died a few years later, the whole town and neighbouring villages turned up at his funeral; but my mother and grandmother felt their world had collapsed.
After a few years had passed, my grandfather, or ‘nonno’ as we say in Italian, decided to up and leave Italy once again, looking for a better fortune in London. So my mother, together with her mother (my ‘nonna’) and uncle emigrated to London. They left their whole life behind them: friends, family, customs, climate, traditions, way of life, education… and so much more. My mother, being the only child just like her mother was an only child, felt the sharp and harsh contrast of the loneliness and lost feeling that an immigrant can feel. However, in the end, my grandparents had to go back to Italy because my nonno suffered from bad angina due to the smutty, London fogs. My mother was left behind in London where she had a stable job and where she had already met my father. Her future in that cold, grey city was soon signed and sealed.
Meanwhile, the story was much the same for my father and his family, with the exception that my ‘nonni’ (grandparents) went straight from the Trentino region in the Dolomites to London, with no detours. However, many relatives did head for America instead; hence my family is distributed far and wide. It was hard for my paternal grandparents too. When the war broke out, my father, grandfather and uncles were all interned in prison for a while until it could be proved that they weren’t Mussolini’s spies. So they also left behind everything they had, while trying to anglicise themselves (though my grandparent’s English was fairly poor as they always preferred to speak in their Italian dialect). The contrast between living in Italy and England was stark, what with the better weather and more laid-back approach of Italy as compared to the then colder, frostier climate and sterner way-of-life in England.
So when I look back and remember my earlier generations, I can sympathise with them: I too had to leave my country in search of a dry, arid climate. Though I am very fortunate in many more ways than one, I still feel the pinch after all these years of being an immigrant, always different to the rest, to not having your family round you nor there to support you and to mostly going it ‘alone’; this is felt even more so when you live in a small community like a village, where you see that most people have their ‘extended’ family around them. It is not easy either if you have had to give up your career or studies and adapt and retrain, redirecting the course of your life, or when you see the best friends you had gradually fade in the background due to not being able to physically meet up as often as before, or when you notice that part of your character may sometimes become muted by the sense of wistfulness and nostalgia… though, needless to say, much worse are those who leave because of wars, political instability, poverty and natural disasters — this is no comparison to my case.
However, I know that neither I nor my past generations were the only ones in this situation. Just in my catholic secondary school alone there were various nationalities and all were immigrants, also experiencing the same feelings. In my class there were Irish, Italians, Spanish, Czechs, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Chinese, Hongkongers, Indians, Sri Lankans, Africans, South Americans etc., etc., etc., (As you can see, I grew up with a wide mix of people, and great fun it was too, learning about other cultures and ways of life!) I know that their parents also felt the pinch of leaving everything behind. Many never grasped the language too well and continued to speak to their children in their mother tongues so the kids grew up learning their original language fluently. Even here in Cordova, which is much smaller than London, I know many immigrants: Moroccans, Syrians, Algerians, Dutch, Canadian, Chinese, Ghanaian, Senegalese, Turks, Colombians, Hondurans, Romanians, Pakistanis, Indians, Georgians, Israelis etc., etc., etc.
They and I are grateful for the opportunities, friendliness and accommodating ways that the host countries offer, as so too are our former generations, though generally when you are an immigrant, you do always feel a bit different… or at least those are my sentiments…
The important thing I have learnt from all this is:
to not to consider yourself too much,
to be ever-grateful of all you have,
to view other people as your family and to be like moving water, being able to flow past obstacles and always adapt, and
to be a child of God, a child of the world and another child, brother or sister in what is this, our vast, worldwide family.
Well, that’s it from me for now, but to end with, here’s a moving poem about immigrants:
“THINGS WE CARRY ON THE SEA” BY WANG PING (born 1957, Shanghai, China)
We carry tears in our eyes: good-bye father, good-bye mother
We carry soil in small bags: may home never fade in our hearts
We carry names, stories, memories of our villages, fields, boats
We carry scars from proxy wars of greed
We carry carnage of mining, droughts, floods, genocides
We carry dust of our families and neighbours incinerated in mushroom clouds
We carry our islands sinking under the sea
We carry our hands, feet, bones, hearts and best minds for a new life
We carry diplomas: medicine, engineer, nurse, education, math, poetry, even if they mean nothing to the other shore
We carry railroads, plantations, laundromats, bodegas, taco trucks, farms, factories, nursing homes, hospitals, schools, temples…built on our ancestors’ backs
We carry old homes along the spine, new dreams in our chests
We carry yesterday, today and tomorrow
We’re orphans of the wars forced upon us
We’re refugees of the sea rising from industrial wastes
And we carry our mother tongues 爱(ai)，حب (hubb), ליבע (libe), amor, love
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
I just wanted to share with you a photo of this morning’s sunrise (yes, yet another one!). So here it is…
The sunrise reminded me of one of Shakespeare’s verses — I had to read him for my English literature O-levels while studying at Gumley House Convent School for girls in Isleworth, London. Here are the first four lines of his Sonnet 33. (I haven’t included the following ten lines because it’s a little more depressing and saddens the tone of what was a lovely sunrise, but if you want to read the full sonnet, you can do so here!)
William Shakespeare (April 1564 — April 23, 1616)
Full many a glorious morning have I seen Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye, Kissing with golden face the meadows green, Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy …
As you might already know, Shakespeare was an ‘English playwright, poet, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s greatest dramatist.’ (Wiki) He was also known as England’s national poet or simply, the Bard of Avon. To read more of his biography you can take a look at this link.
Also, I couldn’t resist including one of Federico Lorca García’s poems, entitled Alba (Dawn). His full name was Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca. He was a Spanish poet, playwright, and theatre director. Tragically, he was killed by Nationalist forces at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. His remains have never been found.
(Below is the English translation.)
Federico García Lorca (June 5, 1898 — August 18, 1936)
My oppressed heart
Sits next to the dawn
The pain of its loves
And the dream of the distances
The light of the dawn brings
Seedbeds of nostalgias
And the sadness without eyes
Of the marrow of the soul.
The great tomb of the night
Its black veil rises
To conceal with the day
The immense starry summit.
What will I do about these fields
Picking nests and branches
Surrounded by dawn
And full of night in the soul!
What will I do if your eyes are
Dead to the clear light
And if my flesh will no longer feel
The heat of your gaze!
Why did I lose you forever
In that clear evening?
Today my chest is arid
Like a shut-off star.
And if you feel like practising your Spanish, here is the original version:
Federico García Lorca (junio 5, 1898 — agosto 18, 1936)
Mi corazón oprimido Siente junto a la alborada El dolor de sus amores Y el sueño de las distancias. La luz de la aurora lleva Semilleros de nostalgias Y la tristeza sin ojos De la médula del alma. La gran tumba de la noche Su negro velo levanta Para ocultar con el día La inmensa cumbre estrellada.
¡Qué haré yo sobre estos campos Cogiendo nidos y ramas Rodeado de la aurora Y llena de noche el alma! ¡Qué haré si tienes tus ojos Muertos a las luces claras Y no ha de sentir mi carne El calor de tus miradas! ¿Por qué te perdí por siempre En aquella tarde clara? Hoy mi pecho está reseco Como una estrella apagada.
Well, that’s all for the mo… thanks for visiting and take care! xxx
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.