Archive for September, 2007

Solar Tower in La Mancha

Another awesome piece of solar technology, and one put into practice.


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South from Granada


Gerald Brenan is an institution in Spain but hardly heard of in his native England. A veteran of the trenches of the first war he came to the Alpujarras in 1919, living in Yegen.

It’s a fascinating book that reads like a series of essays interspersed with great insight and empathy with the local people and their way of life.

Adding another intriguing dimension to his story, he gives fantastic accounts of visits from Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf, being on the fringes of the ‘Bloomsbury Set’, which are hilarious.

He mentions our castle in Velez Blanco and moves to brothels in Almeria. Ex pat Scots men, geology, customs and rituals, bandits and absolutely enormous walks across the Sierra Nevada.

In rather shallow fashion though, I am not writing book reviews, I ‘can’ judge a book by it’s cover and this one is Augustus John’s painting of the Alpujarras.

It’s a must especially if you are planning a visit.



12 years today


We have been together for 17 years, married for 12, travelled, painted, built houses, made twins and the adventure continues. Bliss.


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It was just one of those things the ‘walled garden’ was missing. And it needed to look like it had been there for a while. So at 5 meters and weighing in at just under two tons a date palm was just the ticket.

A ‘walled garden’ here is called a ‘Carmen’ and is one of many gifts the ‘Moors’ left to Spain. To truly qualify it should have a view of the ‘Sierra Nevada’ but here it will have to do with the ‘Sierra Maria’. The essential elements it has to possess are…

grapevines / yes
orange and lemon trees / yes
cypress’ / no (sadly a bit common and remind me of Bocklins ‘Island of the Dead’)
persimmon / not yet
pomegranate / three now known as Granada in Spanish
myrtle / on our shopping list
river washed pebbles / yes
water features such as fountains / not likely due to water shortages and grey water is less attractive.
a nightingale / no but we have vultures and eagles!



Almond harvest time in Los Velez


It’s almond harvest time and although I haven’t found a ‘bat tractor’ picture yet this fabulous thing should compensate. (I’ll show you one later).

It de-husks the almonds. The fleshy fruit around the kernel dries out and has to be broken off. The husks make marvellous fuel for fires and can be ‘hopper fed’.



Two Great New Titles on my Bookshelf


Just a great title that tells you everything you need to know about designing and building your own septic tank. For example V=Px180+2000. V is volume in litres P is the number of people served. So six people require 6 x 180 + 2000 = 3080 litres. Problems solved. They would use P wouldn’t they.


This one is interesting, a little obvious, but gives consolidated advice through experience which is a bonus whenever one embarks into the darkness of opinion rather than fact.

I dropped it in the bath one morning, hence it’s dishevelled appearance, but it fails to give advice in such an instance. Shame.



Sollie’s Chest

Do you remember getting uncontrollable front wheel wobble on your bicycle when you were little? Sollie ‘jack knifed’ and went over the front impaling his chest on the end of the handlebars.


This was a few months ago now. No bones were broken but we could tell it hurt at the time.

Unlike the UK they give you the x-rays here which is always exciting when you are little (or big). I just found this in the draw and couldn’t resist.

And I know these bones belong to me, but they look just so perfect, especially when you are about to be 6.



our summer soundtrack


Mexican ex-metal heads who busked in Dublin got signed and beat Johnny Cash and The Arctic Monkeys to number one in the Irish charts.
Some classic tracks in there fused with Latin sounds and guitar rhythms of Flamenco. Absolutely superb musicianship and should be listened to by everybody.



Solar Towers of Seville

Driving too and from Portugal from Los Velez you see these solar towers just to the west of Seville. There are two (one incomplete) and the operational one is astounding. Bathed in a halo of reflected light it looks like some Biblical revelation, and maybe it is.

What I like particularly is the hole through the centre of the towers. Unlike the curators of Lorca castle the architects of this citadel are not in denial of Spain’s Moorish past. The hole is an Mudejar window, a subtle reference to the past while striding towards the future.

Well done.



Essential Longboards


I have always had a love for Post-painterly abstraction, or ‘colour field’ painters such as Louis Morris. As opposed to abstract expressionism Louis freed his painting of all superfluous rhetoric to the natural world and used colour and form in highly articulated, psychological manner.


His work folds together my love of modernism, in architecture and design as well as painting, and a love for paint and colour. It strikes me that, in 1960, all those utopian ideals were at their peak and it was politics, commercialism and the potential for environmental disaster that turned artists ideas to reality and away from idealism.


Which 47 years later brings me to Essential Surfboards in Portugal. (where my long-board is from) The owner, my friend Alex and his brother, craftsman shaper Daniel Costa sell and make the most beautiful boards in the world. And, I suspect, though completely unwittingly, make an indirect reference all the way back to Louis Morris and all the other modernists.

daddies-longboard.jpg alex-with-longboardfull.jpg

Whilst other manufacturers trade brand names and logos and define surfing as ‘sport’ with their tedious heavy rock soundtracks, Essential boards to my mind do exactly as their name suggests.

Surfing is a form of modernism, it is a utopian ideal, a perfect wave, the ‘essential’ spirit of the activity. The surf board form is defined by nature, by the requisite dynamics demanded by the wave.

And the colour way? The design too is free, free from being complicit in ‘trend culture’ thus elevating it’s status to the real identity of surf-craft. Simply the exuberance of applying colour against colour letting the medium dictate the path is in itself the metaphor for the activity. It’s a cultural ‘monolith’.


P.S Alex isn’t so scary looking in the flesh.


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