Archive for June, 2008

“Have you ever wondered where marble comes from?”

On Friday I had a little business over the border in Murcia. Lorca to be precise. And when my business was concluded I thought ‘let’s try a different route home’. So with the aid of an OS map I cut across country leaving Lorca via the Rambla Sangonera to La Parroquia which is a one horse town if ever there was one. From here I took the road to Zarcilla de Ramos eventually taking a left leaving the tarmac and started heading upwards ascending the Sierra Gigante.

This was a precipitous road to say the least with vertical drops at points into a pine laden abyss. Pines which appeared white like ghost trees strung out across the dusty road. My ascent was rapid aided by the dusty road and I would have to look up the mountain to see in advance if there was traffic coming the other way, allowing me to anticipate another vehicle on a hair pin bend or ancient crumbling bridge. Then I got stuck behind this…


The dust was so bad they were clearly damping the road down in an attempt to control it.

On reaching the ridge I realized the reason for all the heavy traffic. Despite the perilous road huge lorries were taking enormous blocks of marble from here…


a giant quarry. It appears that they just saw through the mountain and roll out these giant dice of about 5 cubic metres. They then load a couple on to a lorry and send it off for processing in a factory somewhere to make tiles for our floors and bathrooms and counter tops.

So if you didn’t know before you do now.



El Coloso de Francisco Goya


I feel I have known this painting all my life, it has always been exciting, something like the ‘secret’ miracle source of light at the heart of a Joseph Wright of Derby or an apocalyptic landscape by John Martin.

It’s a mad masterpiece, an allegory to the frailties of man and the physical injustices wrought upon each other when greed becomes our sole motivation. Baudelaire described it as “giving the monstrosity the ring of truth”, I’m not sure which monstrosity he was referring to, the giant or the Napoleonic war, but either way Goya’s masterpiece is a central piece of work at the heart of the artist’s dark presentiment of war and social chaos unleashed upon Spaniards by Napoleon’s invading army.

Except, now we are told it’s not by Goya but maybe one of his students. Well, so what I say. For me it will always be Goya’s, even if he didn’t paint it. You see Goya’s shadow is so large in Spain and beyond, that whoever made this painting could not have been unaware of Goya and have been profoundly influenced by him. This is not to say that I think a copy of someone’s style is acceptable. It is to say that his unique, mad visions cut a cultural and aesthetic tidal wave through Spain, and that anyone caught in the under tow of that wave was more likely ‘possessed’ by the spirit of Goya rather than merely trying to emulate him.

I suspect provenance has more to do with market forces than art history especially when this week is the week that saw another Monet ‘Waterlillies’ painting going for a record 40 million.

And I do get quite concerned by some of the opinion expressed my the media critics. For example the BBC World service had one commentator, (who’s name I can’t remember so let’s call him Brian Sewell because I disagree profoundly with everything he said) who remarked that it was quite extraordinary that a painting created by a man who could hardly see for cataracts could achieve such a high price at market!


So, let’s follow his argument through. In his supine opinion Monet’s painting is deficit because he had bad eye sight, Beethoven couldn’t write music because he was deaf, Evelyn Glenny can’t play music because she cannot hear what she plays. Willem de Kooning’s later works were suspect because the artist had alzheimers.


It’s very sad that someone should be ‘out there’ expressing such banal and facile opinion. Does he really believe an artist’s perception of the world is solely conceived through the apposite sensory organ?

Goya in his latter years was mad too. They must be worthless.



Moving skyscrapers coming your way

I confess, when I think of Dubai I don’t think of aesthetically beautiful or ecologically progressive architecture. What Dubai does though, with the advantage of copious amounts of capital, is play games with architecture, pushing the boundaries up or down. Which I think is a form of progression.

And now Italian architect David Fisher is building Dubai a ‘kinetic’ tower block who’s individual floors rotate with the wind and generates electricity.




Dem’ Bones

Now, last Sunday Solomon, Sesame and I were discussing skeletons and exoskeletons whilst examining beetles around the house.

Possibly something was lost in translation. Early Monday morning Sol brought me his drawing of this skeleton. Whilst it is anatomically incorrect it is still a fine drawing.




I’ll have a stiff one!

On nights like these, sometimes I wish I were part of a tight knit Gitano clan living with my extended family in some Barrio of Jerez. It’s hot and it’s intense and a gig I will probably search for for the rest of my life.

The singer is Manuel de los Santos Pastor or El Agujetas, (the ‘stiff’ one) and yes he is super cool in my opinion…



Go Juanito!

Sorry, more Flamenco, but Juan Valderrama is just one cool dude…. and I just love the colour of the old footage.




It’s suddenly very hot here, even the breeze is hot. And you can hear the sounds of Andalucia in the resinous perfume of the pine trees and from the heat of the sun on your face.

Listen to Carmen Linares singing and see if you can hear a Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer aloft a minaret across the Straits of Gibraltar.



Tangier Pea


Winding it’s vine like tendrils through the broader blades of grass, Santolina, Pitch Trefoil, Bermuda Buttercups, Shrubby Pimpernels and Scrambling Gromwells the Tangier Pea, Lathyrus Tingitanus  is a tiny but beautiful discovery deep in the vegetation.

I wonder if it’s botanical name tingitanus refers to it’s wondering habit, gitano being a gypsy?



Woodchat Shrike


Lanius senator and like all shrikes it is sometimes called the ‘butcher bird’ on account of it’s habit of impaling it’s prey (larger insects, smaller birds and reptiles) on thorns or barbed wire, creating it’s own larder.

Considering myself to be someone interested in birds as opposed to being a ‘birder’ (formerly ‘twitcher’) and having a modest repertoire of birds I know (but growing), identification has sometimes been hard. Sadly, this time, my beloved ‘Collins Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe’ has let me down. I’ve pinched this picture from the guide, enlarged it tenfold, boosted it’s colour values and contrast and it still doesn’t do the bird justice. When I saw this black, white and orange, quite large, bird bounding from one promontory to another issuing a loud ‘chak-chak’ I immediately deferred to my ‘Collins Guide’ but it could not be found. The reason? This is a bright and vibrant bird, not the diminutive creature on page 218 (1972). It’s a lovely illustration but not adequate for identification.

However Surfbirds (not a longboarding site) is fab. The Woodchat Shrike actually looks like this…


I pinched this picture from Surfbirds. It’s by Kit Day and is rather good but still the bird looks more diminutive than it actually is.





Road repairs due to the rain storms have sent us on a detour between Los Gazquez and Velez Blanco via the Barranco de Barahone, and how pleased we are too, despite the extra distance. A Barranco is a ravine caused by severe soil erosion and here they usually form tributaries to Ramblas, which are dry river beds.

It’s about thirty degrees now and a light blustery breeze takes the edge off the heat but you have to be careful out side as the UV index is about 11.



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