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.
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…
A few blogs ago I wrote about my recipe for pickled olives. I mentioned in it that I would also be trying out a recipe for dried, salted olives. Well, I have performed that experiment and although it’s not completed, I wanted to share my progress with you so far. (The olives probably have about another few days or a week to sit in the salt…)
Anyway, here are some photos:
The olives should remain under salt for about three weeks until they are nice and wrinkly. You should stir the olives, or shake the pot every day. The salt becomes damp as it absorbs their bitter juice. I needed to add more salt at regular intervals. I think I have used about 5 bags of half a kilo so far, which although it sounds a lot is well worth it because it costs me only 34 céntimos per bag — and the olives were free.
When they are ready, I can either shake or wash all the salt off, then tightly pack the dried olives into sterilised jars, filling and covering with a layer of oil to form an airproof seal.
I will include photos and comments on the finished result in a further blog.
Well, that’s all for now. Thank you for visiting — take care! xxx
This morning was very misty and damp, just the right weather to go for a walk especially after having sat all day yesterday hunched up at the computer, teaching then illustrating my book.
The damp and humidity always remind me of Richmond Park, the area near where I grew up before moving to Cordova in southern Spain. (Why and how I made this move is explained inthis illustrated summary!)
So these were some of the things that were out early this morning, as well as me!
But to end on a literary note, and with reference to the myrtle in the above photos, I’ve included a poem about this bush. It was written by Mary Robinson, a very fascinating lady.
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’.)
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.
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! ¡Hijosde 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!
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 notsmile 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.)
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:
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 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.)
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.
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!
Yesterday I went to the fishmonger’s and bought a kilo of fresh sardines for lunch. They were on offer at 3 euros a kilo.
I went home and fried them in a little flour and chopped parsley, garlic and capers.
Needless to say, I gave the unwanted bits to those that were waiting hungrily in the garden, licking their whiskers.
I took a video of them eating because it was amusing to watch the greediness of one of the kittens and hear the warning growling it made while eating. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to put up this video, so I have included this (silent) slide show instead.
The greedy kitten is also very fierce — my daughter has named it Santiago, after Santiago Abascal, the leader of the far-right political party here in Spain — VOX.
Thank you for visiting me — hope you’re all well and in good spirits! Bye for now x
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.