I just wanted to share with you a photo of the first blossom to open on my pear tree (here in my country abode near Posadas village in the province of Cordova).
But how could I not include a poem about a pear tree? So here it is:
The Pear Tree by Edna St. Vincent Millay
In this squalid, dirty dooryard,
Where the chickens scratch and run,
White, incredible, the pear tree
Stands apart and takes the sun,
Mindful of the eyes upon it,
Vain of its new holiness,
Like the waste-man’s little daughter
In her first communion dress.
And here is the lady herself:
‘Edna St. Vincent Millay was an American lyrical poet and playwright. Encouraged to read the classics at home, she was too rebellious to make a success of formal education, but she won poetry prizes from an early age, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1923, and went on to use verse as a medium for her feminist activism.’ (Wiki)
Hi folks! I hope you are well, especially in these worrying times of unrest and division…
With Lent and Easter just a short way away, I wanted to share some classic Lent music that I found the other day, as well as some enlightening teachings and reflections on Divinity (taken from the Nag Hammadi Codices).
To listen to the music, you can click on the link here. It is a thirty-minute recording, but you can choose which song to listen to:
And here is some thought for food and reflection:
‘…Although He is clothed in eternal life, He humbled himself, even unto death…
‘He was both knowledge and perfection, proclaiming the things that are in the heart of the Father. In doing this, He became wisdom to those who would receive the teaching…
‘While His wisdom meditates on the Word, His teaching speaks it, and His knowledge reveals it. His patience and mercy are a crown upon it. His joy concurs with it and his glory exalts it. It has revealed His image. It has received His rest. Around it, His love manifested in bodily form. His faithfulness embraced it… It is the fruit of His heart and expression of His will…
‘Light spoke through His mouth, and His voice produced life. He gave them thought, understanding, mercy and salvation. And the Spirit of strength which came from the infinite sweetness of the Father… He was the discovery for those who were searching, and He was a support for those who were unsure. He was purity for those who were defiled…
‘Speak to those who seek concerning the Truth and speak knowledge to those who have committed sin in their error. Make firm and stable the feet of those who stumble. Give your hand to the sick. Feed the hungry. Give assurance to those who are troubled. Give rest to the weary. Encourage men to love. Awaken men and make those who sleep stand. For you are the understanding which draws them. If the strong follow this path they will become stronger.
‘The father is sweet and His will is good… If you are children of the Father you will be known by your fruits and you will have His scent because you were born from the grace of His countenance…
‘…They yearn for that unique and perfect One who is there for them. They do not descend to the place of the dead. They do not have envy or groaning, or death in them. But they rest in Him who is rest. They no longer weary themselves searching for the truth. But they are the truth because the Father is in them, and they are in the Father. The Father is completely good and they are perfected by Him and they will never leave Him. They lack for nothing, and they are given rest and are refreshed by the Spirit…’
Hi folks! I hope this finds you in good health and spirits.
I did say previously that I probably wouldn’t be blogging in these three weeks during my long-awaited stay in London with my family, but I just couldn’t resist sharing this photo of our beautiful, colourful cercis at the bottom of the garden: it’s steadily turning an autumnal red. Here it is:
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!).
At this point you might be wondering what is sodifficult. Well, as I mentioned in earlier blogs, I am trying to finish a book that I have been working on — a fantasy/fiction for children to which I recently added illustrations to make it more fun. I finally finished it (sort of…) and thought yippee! now I can out it up with Amazon, both as a paperback (though I already have had a few dummy copies printed out here in Cordova) and also as a Kindle book.
So I tried to follow their instructions and I have spent hours watching webinars put up by Kindle University, and I have been on the forums, read the advice, scoured through free manuscript converters: epubs, mobis, buboks, manualsbrain, Zlibrary and the suchlike. I turned the whole topic upside down, inside out, from left to right and vice versa.
Well, I managed to upload the front cover (only because by some stroke of luck I had downloaded the Canva illustrations as Jpg things), but when it came to formatting the manuscript, did I succeed?
The answer is… no I didn’t. Now this isn’t because I am not intelligent enough to follow instructions, but while I admit I am not tech-savvy, nor have I had any formal training on how to properly use all the settings on Word, I just don’t have the time to embark on another PhD and invest all this time on reading around and learning about things like: ‘fixed’ versus ‘reflowable’ texts; ‘contents page’ layout versus ‘insert a chart’; no page numbers versus numbering; ‘headings’ versus just centralising the chapter title and moving it a little by using the tab key; ‘linking’ for easy navigation; ‘fixing’ the illustrations; using proper ‘page breaks’ as opposed to just continuing with a new page; applying proper margins, indentations, line spacing, font, HTML language etc., etc., etc. — the list is endless!
I had read that it took a certain man about 8 hours to prepare his manuscript, but this certainly isn’t my case. I also read that you just have to ‘upload your word doc manuscript’ and hey presto Bob’s your uncle! So I did try that… and unfortunately, Bob wasn’t my uncle! The text was miniature, the new chapters didn’t coincide with new pages, and as to the pictures… well, they were all over the place! In other words, I made a real pig’s ear out of it and as a consequence… I gave up!
However, later that day when I was searching through a list of literary agents, one advert stood out from among the others, blaringly obvious. It was the website of a UK proofreader/copywriter who offers her services also for reformatting manuscripts into the necessary file that can then be used for Kindle and Amazon. Now, I’m not that flushed with cash these days (as craft people usually aren’t — you know, many hours of work for hardly any profit…), but I do believe in divine signs, so I made the logical decision to contact this lady, send her the first couple of chapters and ask for an economic quote, politely reminding her that many people these days have had their usual work hours restricted due to Covid. She promises in her website to be competitive; she certainly does seem very professional, has good references and also features a list of books that she has prepared for Amazon.
So here I am now (after having lit the fire, we’re having a spate of cooler, windy and rainy days) waiting with baited breath and crossed fingers, often turning my eyes heavenwards. Let’s see what happens…
In the meantime, during this literary lull I have decided to organise my quite disorganised craft room upstairs so that I can get on with some art work. I have abandoned this in the last few months as all my efforts have gone into finishing my book as well as my very limited teaching and translating work. I am soexcited to embark on my craft and art work once again, especially as my husband promises that he will remove the eight large and very sturdy batteries which emit slightly toxic fumes and to remove also the very noisy invertors, all of which are necessary for our solar energy system. Perhaps now I will be able to get on with some craftwork and then update my much-neglected Etsy shop…
But how could I sign off without including a photo or two? So, as is my custom, here are a couple of photos, this time of the batteries and inverters and also of my extremely messy table. I’m waiting to get stuck in!
Will keep you posted.
Thank you for reading, take care and oh… good luck if you’re trying to convert your Word manuscript into an eBook-friendly file!
Firstly, sorry to say that the photos in this post have been eliminated due to insufficient space on the multimedia (see my later post for details…)
Wishing you all a Happy, Peaceful Christmas and a good 2021. I hope that the New Year will see us all in an improved situation where we can once again meet up together freely.
A special thank you to all those people who have been tirelessly and selflessly working towards making things better for us, and also to those who have been collaborating.
I’d like to finish with a Christmas poem by Anne Brontë (1820-1849, born Thorton, East Yorkshire)
Music on Christmas Morning— Anne Brontë
Music I love - but never strain Could kindle raptures so divine, So grief assuage, so conquer pain, And rouse this pensive heart of mine - As that we hear on Christmas morn, Upon the wintry breezes borne.
Though Darkness still her empire keep, And hours must pass, ere morning break; From troubled dreams, or slumbers deep, That music kindly bids us wake: It calls us, with an angel’s voice, To wake, and worship, and rejoice;
To greet with joy the glorious morn, Which angels welcomed long ago, When our redeeming Lord was born, To bring the light of Heaven below; The Powers of Darkness to dispel, And rescue Earth from Death and Hell.
While listening to that sacred strain, My raptured spirit soars on high; I seem to hear those songs again Resounding through the open sky, That kindled such divine delight, In those who watched their flocks by night.
With them, I celebrate His birth - Glory to God, in highest Heaven, Good-will to men, and peace on Earth, To us a Saviour-king is given; Our God is come to claim His own, And Satan’s power is overthrown!
A sinless God, for sinful men, Descends to suffer and to bleed; Hell must renounce its empire then; The price is paid, the world is freed, And Satan’s self must now confess, That Christ has earned a Right to bless:
Now holy Peace may smile from heaven, And heavenly Truth from earth shall spring: The captive’s galling bonds are riven, For our Redeemer is our king; And He that gave his blood for men Will lead us home to God again.
Hello folks — I hope you are keeping well and safe!
The other day it was grey, dull, cold, wet and windy, so I thought to myself ‘What a lovely day for a walk!’
And that’s just what I did!
But instead of going to my local Sierrezuela hilly range, close to Posadas, I went a little further afield to the National Park of Hornachuelos. (This was a few weeks ago before the municipal lockdown I might add! I am a very law-abiding person…)
Hornachuelos also has a village and lies some 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Posadas. The park is famous for its diversity of fauna and flora (but more about that in a later blog) and the whole area has a lot of historical hermitages and sanctuaries, as well as an 8th century castle and a gothic church with the ghost of the flying monk. It also has a dilapidated convent-monastery Santa María de los Ángeles— one which boasts its own peculiar history and where my walk took me close to, as you will see in the following photos.
The convent-monastery Santa María de los Ángeles gained more fame after being featured in Iker Jiménez’s Spanish television programme, ‘Cuarto Milenio’ (Fourth Millennium). In this production numerous facts and data supporting the convent’s paranormal history were revealed. These facts were backed up by exhaustive research and quantitative tests, while ample qualitative evidence was provided by witnesses. The evidence included eerie sounds and other psychophonic phenomena that were recorded on a tape, the cause of which has been put down to spiritism and psychic energy. The conclusion was that the strange sounds that hoot, whimper and cry out at night, accompanied by noises of certain ‘things’ moving about (as the experienced locals and some visitors will testify) are phantasmal voices from the past.
As well as these spooky sounds, there have also been sightings. One of the common spectral visions is that of a nun. She is dressed in such a way that is has been concluded (on the basis of other evidence too) that she was the first nun who inhabited the place some five hundred and twenty years ago, and (as the story goes) loathe to leave the convent when it changed ownership and underwent subsequent alterations, she stayed living there in secret for many years, until eventually she gave up the ghost.
The story behind the Santa María de los Angeles convent-monastery goes something like the following. The hallowed site, originally a Franciscan convent, was founded in April of 1490 by Fray Juan de la Puebla (born 1453, nephew of Catholic Queen Isabelle, and nicknamed by the Italians as El Gran Español for his spiritual devotion and the exemplary life he led). As a result of his divine calling, he entered a Hieronymite convent when he was eighteen and then later, under the orders of Pope Sixtus IV, the convent of San Francisco in Rome. (It is reported, by the way, that this pope—under whose orders the Sistine Chapel was built—also aided the Spanish Inquisition, though unhappy with its in-house abuse.)
Fray Juan then returned to Spain when his brother, Don Alfonso de Sotomayordied. (The latter was a great paladin of the Catholic Monarchs, Isabel and Ferdinand, fighting their cause during the Reconquest of Spain.)
Subsequently, Queen Isabel asked the then-acting pope (Innocence VIII) to grant her nephew, Fray Juan, permission to live definitely in Spain, and she herself would see to his spiritual education. Once agreed, he returned for good and devoted himself to establishing many new convents and monasteries in the provinces of Cordova, Seville and Extremadura. One of the monasteries was the aforementioned Santa María de los Angeles in Hornachuelos. This was erected upon the steep and craggy cliffs of the Bembézar Lake, far from any hamlet and village.
In 1494 the convent was visited by the Catholic Monarchs who, recognising and applauding Fray Juan’s famed heroic virtues, wished to give their thanks for the help they had received from God and indirectly, via Fray Juan’s spiritual intercession. This apparently had been instrumental in their victorious outcome of the Reconquest.
However, these were not the first and last monarchs to visit the blessed site, and some seventy-six years later, in 1570, Felipe II graced the monastery with his presence. Over the time there arose the legend that if this holy site were to be bought and altered then it would ‘rain fire’. Contrary to such warnings though, the site changed hands several times, each time undergoing various reforms. True to prediction, the monastery burnt down three times: in 1498, 1543 and 1655.
To rub salt into the wound, after the latter date of 1655 the convent was bought by somebody or other from the nearby town of Ecija and then sold to the Marquises of Peñaflor in 1884. They rather irreverently used the hallowed ground and edifices as a hunting centre. Subsequently though, the Marchioness (perhaps suffering qualms of conscience) donated the property to the church, and in 1957 it was opened as a seminary.
However, as is often the case when some good ideas fail, the new seminary was abandoned some fourteen years later when the upcoming seminarians chose to study in the newly-opened and more central, holy-training institution, San Pelagio in Cordova town. Since then, Santa María de los Angeles—which at last count consisted of seven buildings containing a chapel, various classrooms, dressing rooms, bathrooms, kitchen, toilets galore, patios and even a cave for meditation—has fallen into disrepair.
Now this sacred skeleton stands alone, balanced upon the vertical cliffs of the Bembézar Lake, inhabited only by ghostly nuns that glide about, accompanied by the phantasmal noises from former spectral devotees. The building (and its invisible inhabitants) is also visited by numerous hikers, nature lovers, history enthusiasts and psychophonic investigators, all of who must keep the spirits well-occupied.
Well, that’s all for now…
Thank you for visiting — as usual I welcome any comments or questions.
Hi Folks! Writing this while sipping my mug of Tetley’s (tea, not beer) and still dressed in my PJs and dressing gown.
Dressing gown because, can you believe it, there has been a marked drop in temperatures after the heavy storms that we, here in Cordova province (and the rest of Spain) experienced yesterday. So now 21 °C (69.8 °F) at 8 a.m. feels cool! (Don’t worry, next week we’ll be up around the 45 °C mark again = 113 °F !)
It really chucked it down! Just a few kilometres to the north of where I live (the countryside of Posadas), in the Sierra Morena Range the hailstones were as big as walnuts, while in the south, in the plains of the Guadalquivir River, the towns and villages suffered a real deluge. One village in particular, Ecija (which is about forty minute’s drive south from my house) was a real washout. Here is a short video, you need to click on the link (good practise for your Spanish too!):- https://cadenaser.com/emisora/2020/08/11/radio_sevilla/1597164448_152224.html
And Ecija, lying at about forty minutes’ drive from my house and actually in the province of Seville, is one of the hottest places in the Guadalquivir Valley, so much so that it is known as the ‘frying pan of Andalusia’! It is also known for its numerous church towers and steeples.
You can see the following link for some photos and also a brief overview of this historical and pretty town. There are loads of places to visit, ranging from the many churches, convents, manors, museums and archaeological sites. This link also includes an audio / video guide of some of the main places: http://www.turismoecija.com/en/
Anyway, the storm once it passed, also left behind an impressive sky:
And apart from the castle, I can also see from my bedroom bay window (where I am now sitting) the manure heap next to my vegetable patch. (What a lovely sight!) This is a very useful view because I can tell first thing in the morning whether there has been any wild boar activity at night (they are nocturnal creatures!). Just two nights ago I spotted him at about three in the morning, snorting and hoofing this manure pile and he was just inches away from the chicken wire that encircles my vegetable garden. I had to shout out loudly in order to scare him away — this also woke up Zeus and Dingo who started barking madly at him (from a distance, so luckily he wasn’t able to gatecrash my aubergine, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, chard and wilting spinach — the temperatures have been hot!).
Anyway, this morning it was my intention to write a humorous article about some of my first teaching experiences in Cordova (awful), but I think I’d better leave that for another day. For now, I will go for a cold shower (cold because it’s cloudy and there hasn’t been enough electricity generated by the solar panels to heat the water nor work the hairdryer, though we do have forty-five panels, eight huge batteries and two very noisy converters!). So after my cold shower I will go for a walk to the Sierrezuela Hills (you can read about this if you like in my earlier blogs entitled the Sierrezuela…. https://anenglishladyincordova.home.blog/2020/02/05/the-sierrezuela-posadas-cordoba-spain/), and there I will collect some flat, round stones to paint. (English classes in serious dwindle due to Covid.)
So I shall leave off for now, hoping this finds you all in good health and spirits.
Thank you for visiting me, and as usual, I am always welcome to any comments and questions.