Archive for July, 2008

Mmm Dorado


Last night we cooked Dorado (bream), a ‘Moro’ recipe and a new favourite of ours. Slice potato, onion and tomato, mix with olive oil, salt and pepper and put in the oven for 20mins, depending on how thickly you slice the potato. Then add your (gutted) fish, stuffed with a slice of lemon and fenel seeds. About twenty minutes later ‘hey presto’.

5 Dorados cost about 12 euros, which  aint too bad in my book. And very fresh too.



Bultaco Sherpa

For a while now I have been thinking of buying a motorbike. The two main reasons for this are…

1)  ‘Los Gazquez‘ being so remote and fuel prices being so high it would be a cheap and fast way of traversing the ‘campo’ on those inevitable small errands one needs to do, such as buying a loaf of bread.

2) It would be a very economical way of ameliorating my mid-life crisis (coming up to it’s tenth year, and I’m 45 tomorrow, will it ever end?) and think of the savings. I mean it would be sooo much cheaper to run, wouldn’t it? And very useful for those urgently needed pints of milk.

The trouble is we urban modernistas living in the ‘campo’ can’t make a decision about something like a motorbike without applying all the necessary style checks. And modern bikes are just so ugly.

However (with the aid of an alert from my mate Dom in London) I found the very bikes necessary (did I say bikes?) to halt the tide of time and decrepitude.


It’s a Bultaco Sherpa (I think). And this…


Bultaco Persang (again I think) and I think they are just ‘beautiful.

I could feel like the ‘cooler king’ on a bike like one of these.



Did Thy Earth Move For Thee?



That was not a bit of light holiday reading. Anthony Burgess called it ‘The best fictional report on the Spanish Civil War that we possess’. Fictional it maybe, but having read other non fictional reports of the conflict, I would say that the book successfully transcends the divide between the truth and fiction. Civil wars are made all the more bloody, compared to national conflicts, when we slaughter our own countrymen and neighbours. Especially when local politics were kidnapped and used to justify jealousy and avarice.

On a more fatuous level, I have always been prejudiced against Hemingway having had a tutor who was obsessed with him. Now I like obsessive ‘nerds’, especially when their obsession is in pursuit of something really ‘nerdy’. But to be obsessed by a macho ‘huntin’, shootin’, womanisin’, hard drinkin’ all American hero rather errs on the inadequate in my book. And when years later said tutor turns up on a Bob Monkhouse vehicle ‘quiz show’, specialist subject Hemingway, and answers all the questions correctly. Well, he is a lecturer in English literature. He is supposed to get all the questions right.

 Oh and yes! The immortal expression ‘ did the earth move for you darling’ comes from this book. And what is more, coming from the north of England, where all the old folk, when I was but a lad, spoke in this strange Biblical manner of ‘thee and thy’ it was slightly disconcerting that Hemingway chose this form of English to represent the speech idioms of the peasant Spanish. It took a long time for me to dispel the image of a Spanish proletarian land worker in a flat cap with a ferret down his trouser leg. Maybe that image is more accurate than I imagined. Now I really am being fatuous.

 P.S. Another picture taken with the camera phone!



Boy I’m cross with myself


Stupid here brought on holiday the wrong battery charger for his camera. Just because it said ‘Canon’ on the side he made assumptions forgetting we have a defunct ‘Ixus’. I keep checking the tourists out like a bag snatcher wondering if any of them have the same camera as I do. Even if I spotted one and approached the ‘owner’ what would I say,

“Hey I’ve got a camera like that, what a coincidence! Can I borrow your charger?”

It’s not going to go down too successfully is it. Alas all I can offer is camera phone pictures like this from our balcony. Ah you say that’s not too bad. Well it is. This is the full moon over the Med in Calella. Enough said.



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One night on the Delta

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We intend to break our journey to Catalunya by camping for a night on the delta of the river Ebro. This is one of our favourite places in Spain and in so many ways it is unlike what you might expect from Spain.

The Ebro delta is one of the largest wetland areas in the western Mediterranean region. The Ebro delta has grown rapidly—the historical rate of growth of the delta is demonstrated by the town of Amposta. This town was a seaport in the 4th Century, and is now located well inland from the current Ebro river mouth. The rounded form of the delta attests to the balance between sediment deposits by the Ebro and removal of this material by wave erosion.

The modern delta is in intensive agricultural use for rice, the landscape is nearly all ‘paddy’ fields, hence the uncharacteristic appearence. The Ebro delta also hosts numerous beaches, marshes, and salt pans that provide habitat for over 300 species of birds. A large part of the delta was designated as Ebro Delta Natural Park in 1983. A network of canals and irrigation ditches constructed by both agricultural and conservation groups are helping to maintain the ecologic and economic resources of the Ebro Delta.




Somos todos que van en vacaciones de verano


Pushkar flimflam


One of my nieces is in Pushkar, Rajasthan, India on a summer trip with friends from Goldsmiths. And as people who have spent a lot of time  in India it has been very nostalgic for us to think of her there and we have enjoyed an e-mail her father forwarded to us very much. Nothing changes!

This being India, there is always some money-making catch involved. On the first day, we had barely taken ten steps from our hostel, when a man with a tray of flowers,approached us and gave us each a handful. He told us it was a ‘festival day’. “why don’t you go drop the flowers in the holy lake?” he said, “go now”. we wander down, thinking how quaint and spiritual this all is. At the bank of the ghat we see a swarm of waiting men. They know we’ve come to drop our flowers. We somehow end up spread apart over the bank, each sat with a different man, and we assume that each is just another flower-dropper wishing to help us. They say “repeat after us”. We all spearately chant a hindu prayer, to Brahma, to Krishna, for our families. He asks for your names, dear parents, and include them in the prayer. He tells me to drop the flowers, to pray for my family, ties a band around my wrist and draws a red dot on my forehead. “vishnu” he says. “vishnu” i repeat. “I promise to give” he says. “I promiseto give” i repeat. “3000 rupees” he says. I get a bit shocked. I say I don’t have the money. He says he’ll follow me to an atm, or my hotel. I panic. He starts saying that he’s a brahmin, a priest, and gets pushy. He sayd he will curse my family unless I give 1500 to the poor. He won’t let me shout to the others. After finally getting away, with a 100 rupee gift, we all realise that we’ve beeen throughly conned. It was the nature of the ceremony that was so clever, and all of us felt that to disagree was to offend their very religion, the very town. They’re clever here. Also, beware, you may have been cursed.



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Scold of Jays


There are literally hundreds of Eurasian Jays in the pine forests at the moment. Wherever you look you see the fleeing distinctive white patch above it’s tail feathers or you catch the azure shoulder feathers as it’s swooping flight carries them through the almond trees.

I have no idea if this is normal or whether there is a reason for an apparent population boom. I suppose they could be fledglings ‘learning the ropes’ or maybe it has been a successful year for prey species. I haven’t seen too many lizards recently.

I used Avibase to refine the subspecies but I wasn’t expecting quite so many.



Nina de Fuego

For anyone out there who has followed my new found passion for Spanish music I think this one is a treat. This is something new and the girls voice is amazing. I heard her on the radio and assumed she was a husky sounding ‘Sevilliana’, but no. Her family is from Equitorial Guinea but she was born and brought up with Gypsies in Palma, Mallorca. Clearly there, her musical talent heard the ‘Canta Sevilliana’ sound and my goodness she does it well, which is not easy.

Her name is Concha Buika and her album is called Nina de Fuego. This isn’t my favourite track but it still fab in my opinion. Go and buy it. Oh, and if you wonder what that lovely word ‘corazon’ is it means heart and it is a pre-requisite in all Spanish music to include it. And quite rightly so.

P.S Don’t be put off by the Spanish ‘Saga Louts’ in the audience. I think this is a great performance. Ole.



Bella Pons


While everyone in Spain is proudly celebrating another Spanish sporting victory in tennis, and indeed everyone else is celebrating a great sports man in Rafa Nadal, I think we should celebrate another great sportswoman, Bella Pons.

Here she is at Wimbledon in 1935, and indeed I found her here at the Tennis Forum being celebrated as a famous Latin/South American tennis star.

She won the Spanish Championship five times and competed at Roland Garros in the French Open and Wimbledon. She was born in Haiti but moved to Switzerland in her early years and then on to Barcelona. She spoke French as her first language, English and subsequently Spanish.

In her hey day she had many suitors and was part of the tennis elite on the then circuit. She was friends with the ‘French Musketeers’, Borotra, Cochet, Brugnon and Lacoste but eventually she married a Spaniard called Alejandro Pons.

Sadly the marriage didn’t last and she moved to London working for Norman Hartnell becoming the ‘hat fitter’ to the Queen Mother and Princess Elizabeth’ (the present Queen) amongst other things.

However this Latin/South American sports star’s  maiden name was Dutton, Bella Dutton, and despite her travels she was English and what is more she was Donna’s (my wife) Great Auntie Bella. Or should that be Tia Abuela Bella.


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