Saturday, June 9, 2018


The following three novels about Spain are more than armchair reading. They throw light on events in a more dramatic way than most non-fiction accounts.

Guernica by Dave Boling.

On April 26 1937, the German Luftwaffe dropped bombs on the small Basque town of Guernica: a surprise attack on innocent civilians. This novel describes life in the town in the years beforehand. We come to know the characters very well, but we know that this is a story which will not have a happy ending. This terrible event is also portrayed in Picasso's huge painting of the tragedy. Together the book and the painting demonstrate the horrors of warfare. Guernica is on the Northern Coastal Camino. I haven't been there, but I've seen the Picasso in Madrid.

Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist.

There are hundreds of self published accounts by pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. Most are poorly written descriptions of the highs and lows of their days, boring and predictable. This one, in the hands of two professional writers, is something else. The husband and wife team take turns in writing a chapter as they spin a yarn about two pilgrims who meet on The Way and fall in love. Alongside their budding romance are descriptions of life on the trail, which ring true but do not dominate. There is actually a plot with many twists and surprises. This is definitely not a travelogue. The Camino is just the back drop. More than half of the book is set in France, as the two pilgrims begin in Cluny, and then proceed to cross to the Northern Coastal Camino in Spain. More Caminos to put on my bucket list...

The Last Jew by Noah Gordon.

In 1492, the Catholic Monarchs ordered all Jews to leave the country. After his father and brother are killed, the young Yonah is left to fend for himself. Determined to hold onto his faith and Jewish inheritance, he travels all over Spain in disguise, somehow avoiding the long arm of the Inquisition. Last year on the Via de la Plata, I visited several medieval Jewish Quarters, including Córdoba and Hervas. This novel brought my visits to life. I was also reminded of a terrible anti Semitic episode in the history of York. In 1190, the city's entire Jewish population of about 150 took refuge in Clifford's Tower. Rather than be slaughtered by the mob outside, they killed their wives and children, set fire to the keep and committed suicide. This is one more example of religious intolerance and cruel inhumanity, for which Spain and its Inquisition was not alone.

Brass plaques on the Route of the Sefarad in Córdoba.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Other people's blogs

Every morning I have a cup of tea in bed and read other people's blogs. These are 3 of my favourites about Spain:

Trepidatious Traveller is Maggie's detailed account of her various pilgrimages. She has criss crossed the country in every direction towards Santiago, discovering and documenting little known Caminos, taking brilliant photos of flowers, animals, buildings and other pilgrims en route. She wants to assist those following after to find the way when the yellow arrows disappear. She is a walking machine - and all on a vegan diet this year.

Equus Asinus is written by an expat Brit who lives in southern Spain and keeps 4 donkeys. He was recently sacked from his job teaching Geography in an international school after attempting to mobilise the other staff to campaign for better working conditions. This week, he has been providing a running commentary about the Spanish political crisis. His colourful and outspoken comments probably need taking with a pinch of salt and some balanced reporting from The Guardian online, but his description of the crisis as a slow motion car crash is apt.

My Kitchen in Spain, written by an American expat, is full of mouth watering and authentic Spanish dishes, meticulously researched, but usually containing too many ingredients and needing too much work for the likes of me. However, a recent post on what to do with a bought roast chicken and the numerous meals that can be made with the leftovers, provides an inspiration to even the laziest cook.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Foot problem

When is a bunion not a bunion?

Yesterday I day surgery in South Perth Hospital for a lump of bone to be removed from my foot. It had been growing slowly over the past 5 or 6 years and I had always believed it to be a bunion. However, bunions are always on the side of the foot by the toe joint. Mine was on top of the joint. I can remember being told that my feet were exactly like my Grandad's. As a girl, I was shocked to see him cutting a hole in his sandal and damaging his footware for the sake of comfort.

My little foot problem didn't seem to need any attention till this year's Camino, when my hiking boots started rubbing it. A wound developed which got infected. I couldn't walk any further, but I had decided to stop anyway because the weather was cold and miserable and all the rain was causing the stream crossings on high granite stepping stones to worry me, walking on my own with a backpack weighing me down.

So on returning home I opted for surgery. I arrived before 7.00 am and was hanging around for two hours waiting my turn. These procedures are short, so there is a production line of patients ready to go.

Now here is the amazing thing: the anaesthetist was injecting something into my drip, while his nurse told me to keep my eyes open for as long as I could and think of something nice. But I had dropped off to sleep before I'd had time to think of anything. When I woke up, it seemed as if only 5 minutes had passed and I thought I was still waiting to go into the theatre. I couldn't believe it till they showed me the clock and then my foot, all bandaged up and inside a rigid shoe.

When I came home by taxi in the afternoon, I discovered that JL had crashed my Prius into the security gate of our underground carpark. Not a great homecoming!

Photo taken in early April in Salamanca

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Beautiful weather

I can't remember such warm sunny weather throughout May as we've had this year. More like summer than autumn. Today was 27 degrees so a trip to Cottesloe was called for.

Indiana Teahouse: a Cottesloe landmark

Normally, I walk by the river every afternoon. These are some of the sights:

Pink eucalyptus

Swan family going for an outing

Friday, May 11, 2018

Back to the bridge

It's way over time and way over budget, but there has been some progress this week:
The right hand side of the big arch is up and held under tension from the red crane
The left hand side of the arch is slowly being raised by the cable from the red crane on the
 opposite side of the river
Both sides are up and the tension cables are slackened.
Shortly after, men could be seen at the top of the arch

View the design here

The estimated cost of the bridge, as of June 2015, was $54 million. As of January 2018, the construction cost had increased to $91.5 million. (Wikipedia). To pay for all this extravagance, there have been big cuts in police and education in this week's state budget, while charges for services like water and electricity continue to rise enormously.


In between observing the engineering problems on the bridge, JL has been making friends with a young magpie. He tried to tempt it with a bit of bread (after I refused to give him some meat). Its parent, who was nearby, turned her back on the proceedings:

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Bridge building

The new footbridge from East Perth to the stadium is now going up. It looks an amazing structure, in black and white steel. JL is watching the procedure with great interest from our balcony. The river is closed to boat traffic for a month whilst works are going on.

View from our balcony just now as the middle sections are being hoisted into position

This pic was taken just outside the stadium last week
The red thing is a huge crane
This was taken from The Camfield (the new pub for the stadium and the biggest in WA).
We went over there for a drink on Anzac Day and it was packed!