Firstly, sorry to say that some of the photos in this post have been eliminated due to insufficient space on the multimedia (see my later post for details…)
Well, as the title suggests, it is definitely that time of year again! And I would like to share a few festive photos and a poem with you.
So here they are:
Apart from the tree and Nativity scene, we’ve also put loads of tinsel, baubles, stockings, hanging pine cones etc. around the house. The decorations reflect the light and bring a glowing cheer to the dark evenings.
Meanwhile, in Cordova, the central square Plaza Tendillas has been dressed in thousands of lights, as so too the tall palm trees:
And back in my local village of Posadas, apart from all the streets, gardens and trees being lit up, they are usually decorated by the ladies from the crochet group too. However, since social gatherings are not permitted, nothing as yet has been displayed, so I am including their work from last Christmas. (I included other of their photos in a previous blog of mine.)
And there were also life-sized statues in one of the main streets — as you can see they were all robed in crochet garments
Well, to end this Christmassy blog I’d like to finish with a seasonal poem:
Christmas Eve 1893— Christina Rossetti (5 December 1830 – 29 December 1894)
Christmas has a darkness Brighter than the blazing noon, Christmas has a chillness Warmer than the heat of June, Christmas has a beauty Lovelier than the world can show: For Christmas bringeth Jesus, Brought for us so low.
Earth, strike up your music, Birds that sing and bells that ring; Heaven has answering music For all angels soon to sing: Earth, put on your whitest Bridal robe of spotless snow: For Christmas bringeth Jesus, Brought for us so low.
Thank you all for visiting — I hope that you are able to enjoy this special time.
Take care! xxx
Your comments and questions are always welcome — it is nice to hear from you!
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.
Hello all! I hope you are keeping well in these difficult times…
As you can see, this morning I was met with a beautiful sunrise!
I would also like to take this opportunity of introducing to you one of my favourite blogs that I follow, written by a talented lady who lives in beautiful Yorkshire: https://lisafeatherstone.co.uk/.
The posts are very articulate, well-written and enlightening, with topics ranging from hand-knit designs, birds, books, plants and thoughts (wellbeing, drawing and accessibility). There’s also a quiz on Fridays which not only serves as a mental gymnasium but is sure to test and increase your general knowledge too. In short, there is something there for everyone!
Day’s sweetest moments are at dawn; Refreshed by his long sleep, the Light Kisses the languid lips of Night, Ere she can rise and hasten on. All glowing from his dreamless rest He holds her closely to his breast, Warm lip to lip and limb to limb, Until she dies for love of him.
During the last years, living in the countryside of Posadas (in the province of Cordova) has given us the freedom to enjoy some nice animals, and as I love cats, at one point the count of these animals totalled thirteen (as you will see in the following photos)…
The oldest of these cats was Chueif (spelt that way because at the time, my daughter was too young to being able to appreciate the rules of English spelling — or, rather lack of them!).
Now Chueif was both a fierce and loving creature, and she was a good hunter too, regularly bringing home a half-mutilated snake, and cleaning out the colony of huge grey rats that would often gate-crash our house.
This ‘Right Honourable Chueif’ was our favourite cat, the matriarch of all the others—so how could we leave her behind when we migrated north to our wind-swept cabin situated atop the lofty hills of Cantabria? This brings me to the explanation of how Chueif became a hotel-indulging cat.
From a young age Chueif became accustomed to long drives, but was encouraged to regularly stretch her legs in picnic spots or in fields; she was also allowed to stay in the kid’s tent when camping. On one such camping trip we were obliged to stay an extra night in Salamanca’s campsite because the campsite’s territorial and very fierce tom cat forced her into hiding. It was only by sheer luck and cunning manoeuvres on our behalf, that after pinpointing the source of her woe-stricken meows we managed to cajole her out of her hiding spot—the shrubbery dividing off the swimming pool from the rest of the plots.
When she emerged, we quickly thrust her in the van and calmed her with soothing endearments, as well as bribing her with some tasty tit-bits such as LaughingCow cheeselets, La Lechera condensed milk and ‘leche merengada’ ice-cream (cinnamon flavoured). We then made a soft nest for her to sleep that night amid plump cushions on the plushly-upholstered back seat of our Volkswagon Camper Van, far from the reach of the campsite’s bully. She didn’t complain!
The following night, after having felt quite traumatised by Chueif’s disappearance, and suffering from the general side-effects that camping can have on some people (such as housewives and mothers who are in need of a proper break and certainly don’t need to take their work along with them when on holiday!), we threw all caution to the wind and booked into a four-star hotel in Burgos (which offered a special deal, but which did not extend to felines).
The name of the hotel was ‘Abba Burgos’, and I’m mentioning that not because I have shares or relatives in this establishment, but because I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there: nice, spacious, comfy, offering an asphyxiating sauna and an ample buffet breakfast sprawling over many long tables which luckily came with a good supply of thick, large serviettes just in case one couldn’t manage to sample all the wares and wished to ‘take advantage’ of the situation and ‘improvise’ by making undercover, doggy bags. (After all, it’s not every day that one stays in a four-star hotel!)
Another definite plus point of this hotel (which benefitted my drawers and cupboards) was the fragrant English lavender growing by the hotel’s entrance. I really had to take advantage once again. (When we did reach our final destination in the windswept hills of Cantabria, my daughter and I devoted much time to making lacy lavender bags.)
The hotel is also situated in the historic, old part of Burgos (which is, by the way, the birth and burial place of Spain’s national hero, the military leader El Cid. He was a key figure in the recapture of Spain during the Spanish Reconquest in the 11th century, fighting both for the Christians and then aiding the Moors in their intertribal battles within Al-Andalus.
Anyway, the hotel lies not far from the Gothic-Renaissance-style cathedral which houses El Cid’s tomb, and is close to the bustling town centre with its many squares, cafes, shops and museum of human evolution; it is also within walking distance of the very full Ebro River.
Well, apart from a little light theft or ‘borrowing’, my second infringement of the hotel rules involved cat smuggling. It really didn’t occur to me that one had to make formal enquiries whether one’s cat could or could not stay in the suite. I actually didn’t think about this—I was just so overwhelmed with relief at not having to camp that I completely overlooked it. So when we did enter the foyer, that’s when I noticed the sign in reception, undeniably obvious, which read ‘ANIMALES NO PERMITIDOS’ (‘NO ANIMALS PERMITTED’).
I gulped. I certainly wasn’t going to leave Chueif all alone in the van, still dealing with the psychological after-effects of her camping experience and feeling abandoned, wandering anxiously back and forth between the steering wheel and crowded luggage compartment (where she would probably be forced to relieve herself in the early morning hours).
So, with a feeling of guilt, we bundled her into my daughter’s pink, diamanté, ‘Little Princess’ shoulder bag. Luckily the strap was almost hip long, so I could smother any protesting wriggling or shifting movements by exerting a steady but gentle pressure with my elbow. It was what I imagine playing the bagpipes must be like.
However, as the minutes ticked passed, muffling the remonstrative meows proved to be more difficult than I had imagined. When Chueif let out the first stifled cry, I was actually in front of the reception desk handing in my passport, so I coughed loudly and started talking to the children with exaggerated excitement. The receptionist, while returning me my passport, shot me a quizzical glance which made me feel as if I were about to be interrogated by the SS. I didn’t wait for the sentence to be delivered, but just beat a quick retreat to the recesses of the nearby lifts. There I stood, cat in bag, hair dishevelled, uncontrollably static and unwashed after our camping, and my daughter clad in grimy leggings next to me. However, we were not alone: hovering next to us was a very poshly, sombrely-attired couple, wearing sombre expressions to match— they must have been there for a business meeting, I hastily concluded.
Just at that point, Chueif decided to let her discomfort be known to all of us. From inside the bag poured out an untiring string of miaowing laments, which varied in pitch from high to low, light to strong and sounded like the tuning of an old-fashioned wireless. What’s more, she squirmed and wriggled frantically inside the baby-pink, bejewelled bag.
I saw the couple’s eyes immediately rotate downwards as their focus travelled to the Princess bag that was firmly wedged between my elbow and hip. I tried to camouflage the movements by gently swaying to and fro, by rocking this way and that, by shifting my weight from one leg to another, by twisting to the right then to the left, and by flexing one knee followed by the other, all in a distracted, absent-minded sort of manner (which comes easily to me), and all in time with the over-animated conversation I was having with my thirteen-year-old daughter.
I was aware that by now a damask flush was colouring my cheeks, and my mid-length hair had become even more frizzy and unruly due to the static produced by the nylon carpets and the hotel’s de-ionised air; and this was compounded by the electric static that my nerves were generating.
The lift did take an awful long time in arriving—long enough, in fact, for the couple to shoot me a second quizzical glance, fraught with unspoken accusations. ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen’ was the berating sentence that immediately popped into my head, although ‘Mad cats and Englishwomen’ would have been far more appropriate!
However, luckily and at long last I heard the relieving ‘ping’ from the lift announce its arrival. I let out a sigh of relief in time to a muffled meow (which only made me look all the more ridiculous). As the couple entered the elevator, they deemed us worthy of a smile—an all-knowing smile, coloured by a hint of sympathy and pity, but which at the same time confirmed the unspoken agreement that they would remain mute partners in crime.
We waited for the arrival of the next lift in which we managed to enter quite painlessly, and which delivered us to our fifth-floor double-suite. It was a luxurious room, and even more luxurious for Chueif, who, before curling up on the plush carpets under the bed, had to push her inquisitive, discerning nose into every nook and cranny. As for us lesser mortals, after testing out the king-sized beds, the multitude of television channels and investigating the array of freebies in the bathroom and miniatures in the fun-sized fridge; and after then pocketing the pens and small writing pads (a mother is always short of stationary, isn’t she?), we then proceeded to unpack our few items of clothing.
My husband had even fewer items, being the ‘no-fuss’, simplistic and modest man that he believes himself to be, and so we had taken advantage of his minimalistic attitude by filling his half-empty bag with the cat’s sand box, together with a small bag of sand, a packet of wet-wipes, a rubber clockwork mouse, her favourite cushion and blanket, her bell collar, a lead and harness (just in case), some fish-flavoured chews, a 250 ml plastic bottle filled with milk and a tube of condensed milk.
The litter box, after having been nicely washed, using the hotel’s shampoo and perfumed with their eau-du-cologne, was neatly placed in the kid’s bathroom. Chueif soon settled down and was ready for a nice long nap; and we were ready to go and explore the historic town of Burgos.
We were enchanted by the town and after much walking and sampling delicious tapas in many bars, we finally arrived back, exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep.
The night and following morning went according to plan, with both Chueif and the children behaving very well indeed. There were no other incidents or protestations from Our Right Honourable Cat when we handed back the keys on our departure. Perhaps it had something to do with the bacon and chorizo that we had smuggled for her from the ample breakfast buffet.
Since the hotel experience turned out to be such a success (especially for mothers and cats), the whole ‘cat-in-a-hotel’ process was repeated once again, but this time in a five-star hotel in the historic, medieval town of Toledo.
But I think that’s enough of cats in hotels for now!
Full many a glorious morning have I seen — William Shakespeare (1564-1616, Stratford-Upon-Avon)
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; Anon permit the basest clouds to ride With ugly rack on his celestial face, And from the forlorn world his visage hide, Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace: Even so my sun one early morn did shine, With all triumphant splendour on my brow; But out, alack, he was but one hour mine, The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now. Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth; Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth.
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.
Hello, I hope this finds you all in good health and spirits.
A few blogs ago I put up photos of the olives I had picked and was scoring them before putting them in water to remove the bitterness so later I could pickle them.
Well, a couple of weeks have passed since scoring the first set of olives, and after having changed the water daily they are less bitter (or ‘sweeter’ as they would say in Spanish), so today was the pickling day. And here is what I did:
And to finish, I’d like to include a beautiful poem by Pablo Nerudo (1904-1973, Chile, poet and politician:
Ode to Olive Oil
Near the murmuring In the grain fields, of the waves Of wind in the oat-stalks,
The olive tree
With its silver-covered mass Severe in its lines In its twisted Heart in the earth: The graceful Olives Polished By the hands Which made The dove And the oceanic Snail: Green, Innumerable, Immaculate Nipples Of nature And there In The dry Olive groves Where So alone The sky, blue with cicadas And the hard earth Exist, There The prodigy The perfect Capsules Of the olives Filling With their constellations, the foliage: Then later, The bowls, The miracle, The olive oil.
I love The homelands of olive oil, The olive groves Of Chacabuco, in Chile, In the morning Feathers of platinum Forests of them Against the wrinkled Mountain ranges. In Anacapri, up above, Over the light of the Italian sea Is the despair of olive trees, And on the map of Europe, Spain A black basketful of olives Dusted off by orange blossoms As if by a sea breeze.
Olive oil, The internal supreme Condition for the cooking pot, Pedestal for game birds, Heavenly key to mayonnaise, Smooth and tasty Over lettuce And supernatural in the hell Of king mackerels like archbishops. Olive oil, in our voice, in Our chorus With Intimate Powerful smoothness You sing: You are the Spanish language; There are syllables of olive oil There are words Useful and rich-smelling Like your fragrant material. It’s not only wine that sings Olive oil sings too, It lives in us with its ripe light And among the good things of the earth I set apart Olive oil, Your ever-flowing peace, your green essence, Your heaped-up treasure Which descends In streams from the olive tree.
Thank you for reading, I hope you have enjoyed this blog. As usual, comments and questions always welcome.