Wednesday, August 23, 2006

South from Granada

Gerald Brenan was a Bloomsbury fringe figure who spent much of his adult life living in and writing about Spain. This is his much-loved travel memoir which recounts setting up home in the 1920s in the Alpujarras - a beautiful but fairly remote area of the south between Granada and the coast. It's a joy to read for all sorts of reasons - partly because of his amazing fortitude and resourcefulness, and partly because of the empathy he shows towards everything with which he comes into contact. At first he lived on next to nothing, with no water, gas, or electricity, settling in a village miles from anywhere. His idea was to spend his time reading, catching up on an education which he had not received at public school. His food came virtually straight off the land - for this area is rich in fruit, vegetables, and the olive oil for which it is famous.

He integrates completely with the locals, and gives wonderfully sympathetic accounts of their customs and behaviour. Anything he wants to buy is miles away in Almeria, Orgiva, or Malaga, and his account includes expeditions we would now consider positively heroic:

I set out therefore on foot by the still-unfinished coast road, buying as I went bread, cheese, and oranges, and sleeping on the beaches. Since I was in poor walking condition, I took five days to do the hundred a fifty miles.

He is amazingly at one with nature. I imagine a keen botanist would find double pleasure in his description of excursions into the Sierra Nevada. And literary fans will be amused at his accounts of visits from Lytton Strachey and Dora Carrington, then Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf. His portrait of Strachey's calvary on the outing to Lanjaron, riding over mountains side-saddle on a mule, carrying a parasol, and complaining of piles - is pricelessly funny.

There are chapters on the calendar of village life, of festivals and religious beliefs, and in particular the powerful local superstitions; a whole section on local food - paella, bacalao, and gazpacho - all quite common now, but at the time, like food off another planet.

There's a chapter which creates en passant a whole analysis of the Bloomsbury Group and most of its major figures, plus why he felt that by 1930 it had outlived itself as a cultural force. His description of the pleasures and riches of walking in the mountains would take you several holidays just to re-trace his steps.

He offers a history of the region which starts at the Mesolithic Age and traces its development in terms of agriculture, architecture, politics, and land cultivation. He even throws in a chapter describing a guided tour to the brothels of Almeria.

It's no wonder why this book has remained a popular classic which never goes out of print. Read it if you are interested in Spain, Bloomsbury, or just an account of life, art, and culture from a sensitive and intelligent human being. He went on to write one of the definitive accounts of the Spanish Civil War - but it's this book which you will want to keep on your shelf.

Gerald Brenan, South from Granada, London: Penguin, 1963, pp.320, ISBN 0140167005

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Another Tour of the Grounds

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Around the Puebla

Saturday, August 19, 2006



Friday, August 18, 2006

How to Enjoy Yourself

Take one look at these, and you'll get the general idea!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


All doors and windows in the apartment are now fully secure, with some combination of reijas (iron grilles), roller shutters, and/or locking doors. You can lock the reijas and leave the doors open (to let air circulate) or do the opposite. The safest thing to do is to take the house keys with you whenever leaving the apartment.

However - be warned! It is now easily possible to become locked out on the patio if the wind blows the doors shut - because there are no exterior handles on them. If this happens, you have to climb over the wall - and you need to hope that the conservatory reijas are open - or you have the keys.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Cleaning the House

1. Sweep or vacuum obvious bits from floor.

2. Take all small rugs and shake them on the terrace. Leave them there until the end of your session.

3. Change bed linen.

4. Fill mop bucket (half) with hot water, Don Limpio, and a drop of bleach from yellow bottle.

5. Mop everywhere, but strategically so that you're not stepping on areas already done. Use the hallway as an oasis.

Follow these housewifely tips for the best results.

  • Change water when it gets dirty or you're just spreading dirt
  • Empty water down toilet not kitchen sink. Sink will get blocked with sludge and bits.
  • Wash mop and let it dry upside-down in cupboard on terrace.
  • Spray with anti-vermin stuff as you'll have mopped most of it up.

6. Vacuum all big rugs and possibly settees with nozzle (on kitchen shelf).

7. Dust wooden furniture with Pledge and a J-Cloth or some kitchen paper. Lightly dust TV screen.

8. Clean bath, sink and toilet with special cloth and Don Limpio.

9. Wipe rim of toilet daily with toilet paper and put drop of bleach down toilet.

10. Clean mirror with Crystale glass cleaner.Clean kettle with same.

11. Put rugs back, and wipe all kitchen surfaces with Don Limpio.

12. Sweep then hose down terrace.

13. Sit back and admire your lovely house.

NB Maintenance

Put J-Cloth in with washing or in dishwasher at top or in bowl with drop of bleach every three days or so.

Wash towels and tea-towels and table linen frequently.

Use swifter to keep dust down off floors.

Washing machine

Start of programme is 'F'

Spin is 'H' - I give an extra spin usually.

Use one tablet for a half load, or two tablets for a big wash.


Use one pellet. They're under the sink.

A1 is the normal programme starter - look at the icons on the inside of the door for further enlightenment.

Take care that nothing sticks up so that the arm can't swivel. Lay the long utensils horizontally across top layer.

Don't put wooden stuff on bottom layer.

Put everything upside down. It won't wash the bottom of things well.