Archive for January, 2009

26 Jan 2009

Tapping the night away

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>There was a rumour running around the school that morning about a good Flamenco show and Rafa came in with the event poster and suggested we go. We had wanted to see Flamenco for a while but had heard lots of bad things about the touristy shows and wanted to see something authentic, so we were glad we had waited.

When was the show – that night! Thanks for the advance notice. So we all formed a plan to go, Spanish style, which basically meant there was no plan. We had agreed on a meeting place, but by the close of school the meeting place and time had changed so much so that everyone was confused. It was cold, wet and dark and we waited at the agreed meeting place and no one showed up. We waited. Without a map we walked through the deserted streets of Realejo and trod through slippery paths and muddy roadworks. We had just about given up all hope of finding the venue when we bumped into Anita and Blanca – fellow students – also cold and wet and lost. We climbed up further through the barrio and made murmurings of just going to a bar, any bar and having a drink instead. Anita stopped and asked a girl standing in front of a nondescript doorway if she knew of a Flamenco show in the area. She motioned us in. We paid our fee and entered an era of days gone by; where the men all had greasy mullets, long chops (sideburns) or dreads; and the women had long hair and flowing dresses.

The show was due to start at 10.00pm, or so the poster said, and in true Spanish style the place was practically empty until 11.00pm and shortly after the show started. It mattered little, because there was much interest to be had in crowd watching through the film of cigarette smoke and marijuana that enveloped the bar. We all gathered around a tiny stage, with mikes, drums, and stools and one by one various artists appeared, began tuning their instruments, kissing, hugging and all things Spanish. And then there was a general announcement and the show began.

It is difficult to describe the passion that goes with Flamenco. The first few songs were upbeat and had us tapping awkwardly to the irregular beat and then a small guy, tiny, who wore a hat and looked sly, and like he belonged on the set of the Sopranos, clambered up onto a tall stool with his guitar and sang and played with such energy I thought he was going to fall off the stool. Between songs there was general confusion – very Spanish — and just when it appeared the band was about to disband, another song would begin. A large guy who looked to be a roadie stepped up to the mike, shaggy and with a fondness for beer judging by his stomach, and proceeded to sing with passion in a growling wail. Another change of singers and a girl from the crowd in a long flowing dress walks up to the mike. We have visions of her in her long flowing dress and hair, and her castanets, tapping, clapping and shaking away, when out from the crowd a lanky guy in jeans and a t-shirt — another roadie— steps up on to the floor and tap dances away with such gusto and energy — like Irish dancing on speed — he has everyone clapping along. There is an interaction between the singer and the dancer, she beckons him in duet, a marriage of song and dance. It is all an act, a very good act.

And then an interesting looking woman takes her turn at the stage and proceeds to slowly pour her heart out. Her face contorts with every wail and you feel her agony and her passion. It is strong and moving. Throughout the night a steady procession of artists take their turn at the mike.

I suspect the show may have gone on until sunrise, but we had school the next day and it was well past 2.00am by the time we got home.

26 Jan 2009

They came home smelling of horse

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Not a happy camper

I spit on horses. Paul had that look of absolute fear chiselled in his face and when I coaxed it out of him he confessed. “We went riding in the foothills of the Sierra Ranges. We scrambled up and down steep rocky paths, the horses slipping on the rocks under their hooves. I thought I might die.”

And then I spoke with Gill who smiled, “Yeah we went riding. I suppose it was fun, a bit boring though. We just followed a trail for a couple of hours. It would have been nice if we could have broken into a gallop.”

I think they are having too much fun because only a couple of days later they arrived home all cold and damp with a large pack of ski clothing. I am not sure why they keep sneaking out of the house without me?

I cornered Paul who told me “It was gnarly man, awesome. Fantastic conditions, clear skies, wide trails. It’s a pity most of the black runs were closed. I really miss the trees.”

And then I spoke to Gill, who was nursing a bruise, “Those green runs are so long and challenging. I am starting to get the hang of this, but give me a horse any day.”

Paul & Anita strapping up with Gill in foreground

Professor Miguel takes to the slopes

Sierra Nevada ski village

16 Jan 2009

Brad and Imogen – we miss you

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My big mate Brad!

Day tripping in the Sierras

We have become so accustomed to having you around; washing our dishes; plying us with pastries; making us cups of tea; taking out the empty “vino” bottles; prising open the washing machine and fixing the toilet. These next few days are going to be tough as we slowly reclaim our domestic responsibilities and give our livers a chance to recover.

G&V in Cordoba

Thankfully it doesn’t snow often in Granada
And Phil and Viv, Granada misses you – and us too. We miss your company and good spirits (and wine) and help in seeking out those dubious Moroccan restaurateurs whose sole aim is to provide the least possible food for the highest possible price and we miss being able to drag you along, all the way to Cordoba, to view the famous Mosque only to find it is closed for the day.
15 Jan 2009

“The Cree-sus”

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>With all this talk of an economic crisis (referred to as “the cree-sus” over here) you would think renting an apartment would be a simple process, but it’s not. There are “for rent” signs – in Spanish of course – everywhere in the Albaicin and combined with our abysmal “telephone” Spanish, we eventually get to view a few apartments, most of which are old, several hundred years old , and some which look like the shutters have not been opened for at least two hundred of those years. Bats flying around, clouds of dust and dingy – you get the drift.

Strangely, the Albaicin which has seen better days – approximately 600 years ago – now only has about 8,000 residents, down from 30,000 only 20 years ago.

When we finally did find a “casa”, not an apartment, which we prematurely took to referring to as “la palacio”, because it was grand by Albaicin standards, with a pool and gardens, token stray cats, stupendous views and no common walls, and then decided to take the plunge – not in the icy pool – after mulling over the decision and the astronomical expense, the owner says they have changed their mind and have decided they will leave it empty for a while, to collect dust and house bats not doubt!

So we were back at square one – with a week to go before the train station benches began to look like comfortable options – and then unexpectedly, through a rather tenuous connection have been offered a “VERY NICE” house in the heart of the Albaicin, with several storeys, uninterrupted views of the Sierra and the La Alhambra, terraces and balconies, a pool, beautiful gardens and not a cat in sight. We move in on Saturday. I am a happy alpaca.
Stay tuned for pics.

15 Jan 2009

If you go out into the woods today …

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Zuheros viewed from the top of the gorge

… be sure to bring spare clothing. We spent a recent weekend exploring the hills of Andalucia near Zuheros with our new found friends; Anna and John; Graeme and Jo, Gareth and Maude; and lastly Kimba and Jimmy of the four legged variety.

It’s a long way down

Our track becomes unpassable

And we all have different ideas about which way to go

Kimba in action

We trekked up the road along the top of a large gorge overlooking the town and then down a dirt path through an olive grove to a fast flowing creek before we ended up unable to follow the path any further. The path continued on the other side of the creek however the unseasonal heavy rains had made it unpassable. Gareth managed the crossing but no one else dared follow his Mission Impossible type manoeuvres and Kimba and Jimmy looked on eagerly from the water’s edge, their paws all muddy.
We scrambled back up a muddy paddock, all mucky and cold, and into town to a crowded restaurant at the edge of the town for a huge lunch and a huge dose of David Beckham (are you reading Sheina) – with photos of Beckham, in his Real Madrid days, alongside the beaming restaurateur adorning every spare inch of wall space.
After lunch we stopped at the “Cueva de los Murcielagos,” (Cave of the Bats) and proceeded, with a guide in the lead, sans canines, to climb down and down through many impressive chambers, expecting at each turn to see thousands of tiny bats hanging from every nook and cranny and instead our guide, with a straight face, managed with some difficulty to find a tiny solitary bat – we all looked on in awe.