Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Salon de Bal

Social dancing is thriving in the northern towns and villages of Girona. Posters can often be seen on prominent display for a coming Salon de Bal to be held at the local social centre. Dance classes are available at several venues around the city, all in all it would seem to be a popular past time.

Today I received this photograph from my mother showing, a slightly younger version of me receiving an award; from the
International Dancing Masters Association for ballroom and modern sequence dancing.

I am therefore equipped to set the dance floor alight at the next Salon. Maybe not a Gigilo but certainly a Jig.

Should I display my credentials? Perhaps I could wear my medals, or would it be more discrete just to leave the certificates lying around?

Monday, July 11, 2005

The boys from the Blackstuff!

“Do you speak a little English?” Said the Irishman at the door.

“Yes, I am English”

“Well if you can manage a little English we should be fine”

“Would you be interested in a little tarmacadum? for the road there”

“I was wandering when you would show up” I laughed, “unfortunately it’s not my road, it belongs to the town”

“It’s not yours but surely it’s part of the land!”

“It looks that way but it isn’t.” I continued, “I know that the mayor is looking at road works at the moment why don’t you go to the town hall and offer to tender for the work”

“They tend to be fond of the paperwork at the town hall, that all takes time.”

“What about dese fellas down here” he said indicating the Huerta at the bottom of the nearby field

“The house is owned by an elderly Catalan couple who don’t speak English. However that’s were the town hall are considering the road works; but you need to go through the system.”

“I could just have a quick word with them down there about the road; we don’t need to worry about the paperwork.”

“How come you are in this neck of the woods” I asked.

“Oh we come through this area every year about now, just doing the farms like” he replied before adding “I’m looking for an old English car if you‘ve got one, don’t mind if it’s a ringer.”

He gave me the number of a mobile he was currently using, to contact him if I found any work for him.

“Who shall I ask for?” I enquired.

He seemed to be considering this, as he wrote 'JoHn' on the piece of paper.

It was as if he was writing his name for the first time.

Round the mulberry Bush

It turns out that the three trees which provide some much needed shade on the patio are mulberries. Very sweet and subtle in flavour. I have frozen 6 kg of the fruit for use in deserts and ice creams, for every berry I pick another fifty are dislodged and fall to the ground.

The berries are so sweet, that when bruised they release there sugary juices, coating everything that comes into contact with them. The ground is covered with spoiled fruit and in turn the fruit is covered in insects. The fruit is attracting a lot of interest from the neighborhood birds. There are those birds which feed directly on the fruit; and others like the bee eaters who feed on the insects that feed on the fallen fruit.

Everyone walking into the house leaves a trail of rotten fruit behind. This is a tree which should be planted away from the house.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


The sheep are growing fast now. They arrive in a cloud of dust stirred by their 2000 feet. In there wake, the cattle egrets feed on the grasshoppers and crickets they have disturbed.

In the finca I can see that two ewes are looking distressed. They are either side of the boundry tape seperating our land from the adjoining field. Francisco is sat on a wall in the shade with the two sheepdogs at his feet; he is across the field from the two ewes and waves to me. As I walk towards the distressed animals intending to lower the boundry tape and reunite them, I notice that the ewe in the field has afterbirth hanging from her rear end. Lying very still in the barley stubble is a small lamb. The lamb is exposed to the baking sun and showing no sign of life. I wave to Francisco to attract his attention, he waves back at me as if in greeting. Beckoning more urgently results in Fransisco crossing the field towards me. He looked upon the lamb without concern and told me that had been born within the last hour and would be ok. It was he said, the sixth lamb to be born in the last two days. He took the tiny animal by its rear legs and dangled it over his shoulder ride for the long journey home.

As the two dogs rounded up the straying sheep I remarked that the herd were looking well.

' Sí bueno, pero en un más mes, de muerto!' as he spoke he drew his right hand across his throat in a cutting motion.

The sheep we watered each day, which grazed on our land amongst the rosemary and mint were nearer their life journeys end.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005



This is the 12th. Century roman bridge spanning the river Fluvià.
A toll was raised from the mediaeval
travellers who crossed the bridge.
Recently a Mikva a form of ritual Jewish Bath House has been recognised and restored.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

New broom

One of the great joys of house renovation is dust, it permeates the air of every room in the house; covering each and every surface several times a day with a film of debris. The polished granite worktops and tiled surfaces intended to make life easier have instead become showcases for the builders waste.

There must be something in the macho code signed up to by most Spanish males, which prevents builders from purchasing sweeping brushes. No matter the scale of the company, none of them will come prepared with the brushes and shovels needed to clear away the inevitable debris, they create. Instead they will utilise domestic dust pans to shovel away tons of broken concrete and tiles. I have run out of hiding places for brushes and dust pans, and accepted the inevitability of shopping weekly for such items.

I am not yet at ease with the design of Spanish sweeping brush; their handles are always 90° to the brush head, and it is impossible to apply any force behind such a brush head. And therein lays the problem, a whole new technique is required.

If you spend any time in a busy Tapas bar, you will eventually become aware that the customers are slowly disappearing in a sea of their own litter. Food morsels, napkins, cigarette buts, small animals and children can be identified amongst the debris. Some customers loose sight of their feet for several hours in the process of dining.

Periodically the Camerera/o (waiter/bar staff) will emerge from behind the bar to tackle the growing pile of litter. Using one of those rather delicate continental brushes each scrap of the offending litter is deftly flicked into the dust pan, leaving not a trace. These bars should, I now believe, display warnings to the effect that customers should not try this at home.

When you next tackle the builders debris, emboldened by the technique of the Camerera you have patiently studied and emulated you find that the mountain of dust and debris that moments ago lay before you has miraculously disappeared without trace. Success at last! It’s obviously all in the wrist action.

Turn around however, and you will find that the pile of debris, having flown though the air and over your dust pan has reformed behind you.

Oh! well its back to the bar for further studies.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Dog's best friend?

Yorkshire terriers are in danger of becoming the Catalan version of the poodle. They are the fashion accessory of the moment for middle aged residents of the country.

Small in stature the dogs were originally bred from other robust terrier breeds, to catch vermin down the coal mines of Yorkshire. You can understand how a miner descending into the bowels of the earth would rather carrier a diminutive terrier than one of its bigger cousins.

Quick to spot a rat, fearless and affectionate, that is the terriers and not the miners;(though come to think of it that could also describe the straight talking miners of northern Britain), the dogs grew in popularity and were soon established as a breed in their own right. That was when their problems started. Everybody who owns the increasingly shrinking Yorkshire terriers feels obliged to pick them up. The tough little terrier is now a lap dog.

The dogs still have personality but are losing the essence of their breed becoming more toy than terrier. Maybe it is not too late, if all the owners would put the dogs on the ground and treat them like dogs; then they would be healthier for it. In a few generations the Tyke could be more like its oldself.


Sunday, July 03, 2005

Castell Sant Ferran

The lovies have descended on Figueres for the filming of scenes for the movie, 'Tirant lo blank'

'Tirant lo blank' is a fifteenth century epic adventure story, written by Joanot Martorell a knight and author beleived to have lived in Valencia between 1413 and 1465. The book gives an insight into his views of 15th Century life. Conveiniently re-shaping history to fit.

Tirant lo blancas was described by Cervantes curate in Don Quixote as,

'by right of its style it is the best book in the world. Here knights eat and sleep, and die in their beds, and make their wills before dying, and a great deal more of which there is nothing in all the other books. Nevertheless, I say he who wrote it, for deliberately composing such fooleries, deserves to be sent to the galleys for life.'

Don Quixote later refers to 'the never sufficiently praised Tirante el Blanco.'

The book was written a hundred years before Cevantes put pen to paper.

'The knightly estate excels in such degree that it would be highly revered, if knights pursued the ends for which it was created.'

The translation into english ISBN: 0517623161

In the year of Cervantes 400th anniversary this book makes an interesting read.

Back to the present...

The castle of Saint Fernando of Figueres has been converted into a Turkish stronghold for the movie.

The local thespians mainly long haired and weird beard types, are suddenly fashionable again and desperate for roles as extras in the movie.

The web site of the castle can be found at,