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The Art of Derek Dohren

painting, writing, photography



Reel Around the Fountain

Posted on October 11, 2011 at 6:50 PM


One of my pivotal reference points of the 1980s is The Smiths' song Reel Around the Fountain. That's what was playing in the car when we crashed on the M62 near Burtonwood services. We were on our way home from the 1984 League Cup Final replay at Maine Road, Manchester. Even now, I can't have a car crash without thinking about that song.

We'd beaten Everton 1:0. Graeme Souness scored. We were stranded on the motorway and got a lift home from Eddie, my mate Ken's mother's boyfriend. He was a Bluenose and gutted about the match yet Ken phoned him up and told him what had happened. Eddie drove back out just to pick us up. Us, a bunch of gobby Red Shite, the last thing he probably wanted to see in the entire whole world. Served him right. Even now I can't see Graeme Souness without thinking of Eddie.

I'd damaged my glasses in the crash. They'd flown off my head in the impact, just at the point where Morrisey witters on about falling out of bed twice. Ironic? No, not really, just the random machinations of planet earth. Shit happens, but thankfully there's usually someone worse off. I needed new specs anyway and that's me all over. Some of us are glass half full people. And some of you aren't. I saw it as an opportunity. Still, even now I can't fall out of bed without thinking about those specs.

I tried to pull a guy out of the wreckage. He was one of those worse off people I was on about. He was caked in blood. He may have been dying. He asked me to leave him because the pulling hurt too much. I think he had to be cut out of his wreckage. Give him his due, he was laughing about writing off the missus's car. You see he was a Red and she was a Blue. A mixed marriage then. She was going to be livid. She'd say he'd wrecked her car and died on purpose. Even now I can't think about dying without thinking about not being able to not die.

I don't know for certain but I suspect Morrisey was oblivious. And sure as Hell he'd bank a royalty cheque one day that would include the tiny fee he'd get from Radio City for that particular play. And not just Morrisey in fairness. The rest of the Smiths were all in this too. I don't imagine they gave even a single thought for poor Eddie's plight that night. But in fairness, are Morrisey, Johnny Marr and the other ones, actually footy fans? Even now I can't bank royalty cheques without remaining callously oblivious too.

They built a whole Ikea superstore at the very spot where we crashed. I went back once and there was no plaque, no acknowledgement. It's as if Reel Around the Fountain had never been written. Perhaps if we'd crashed to William It Was Really Nothing things'd have been different? In an attempt to forget I took to wearing contact lenses.It didn't work. Every time I put them in I thought of my old glasses.

But I left the M62 behind. Life does move on eventually. I moved to Scotland and began crashing on the M8, just by those big gas towers. 'Glasgow's Miles Better' a sign there said. No it wasn't. I crashed twice in two days in the exact same place. In the same bleeding lane. In fairness to him Graeme Souness had no hand in either incident and I was thankfully able to console my new glasses (I'd taken to not wearing the contact lenses on Tuesdays and Wednesdays – the days of the crash) with the information that I'd had glasses that had suffered far more in terms of severe car crash injuries. Even now I can't turn the gas on without thinking about Graeme Souness.

I still wear glasses but I've given up listening to The Smiths. I haven't seen Eddie or Graeme Souness for years. I gave up on Glasgow too. It was miles better as it happened but I wasn't to know that at the time was I? It's water under the bridge now though. I can't see water under a bridge without thinking about other places being miles better.

And do you know what the odd thing is? If I Google Graeme Souness I get 628,000 hits but if I Google Eddie I get 248,000,000. I may of course be spelling Eddie's name wrong and maybe it's Eddy. I haven't tried Googling Eddy. Googling The Smiths would be complicated because of all the people in the world called Morrisey. Even now I can't spell things wrong without thinking about Google.

Reel Around the Fountain: It's a funny title to crash your car to. And I should know. Or rather my brother should, it was his car. And he crashed it. If ever we play Everton in a League Cup final replay again it'll throw up old memories, rip open the scars. I don't know if either my brother or my current glasses are up to it to be honest. These days me and my glasses listen to Extremaduro and watch Youtube to see fourteen year old girls auditioning for X-Factor. They never sing about fountains, none of them. You'd think Ikea had never been invented. Even now I can't invent things without thinking about Simon Cowell.


Wonderful Life

Posted on June 2, 2011 at 7:42 AM

Have you ever seen the classic Jimmy Stewart movie It’s a Wonderful Life?

No, you haven’t?

Oh, ok then.

Well, anyway, Stewart plays a character called George Bailey. When his father dies George takes over the family building society business and continues to provide financial assistance to the residents of the small town they all live in.

There’s a great scene in the middle of the film when, owing to fall out from the Wall Street Crash, a run on the bank sees the business in imminent danger of total collapse. The unscrupulous fat cat leader of a rival, much larger bank, is hovering to hoover up the pieces but George refuses to lie down and accept the apparently inevitable.

He talks to each of his customers in turn and virtually begs them one by one not to withdraw their entire account but instead to just take what cash they really need to get them along in the short term.

At the end of a very long day the bank is left with a single dollar bill and the business has survived the crisis.

Today is my George Bailey day. I have settled a couple of urgent bills and each of my bank accounts have just enough in them to stop whining for the time being. I have food in the kitchen, money on my bus card and still have two weeks of rented accommodation to live out. I also have four Euros in my pocket and I have a class to teach this evening which will add a few more – so in that sense I’m even better off than old George was.

Sure, the next crisis is probably already winging its way over and I’ll have to deal with it as when it arrives but for now there’s a sense of calm – a lull between storms maybe, but a lull nonetheless. And I’m going to have a nice cup of tea to celebrate.

In the film the bank workers dance around the office with the dollar bill before lovingly putting it into the safe, where they hope it’ll reproduce. It does, and they all survive long enough to deal with the next crisis.

It’s a rare film that actually makes you feel sympathy for bankers but I guess that was the genius of its director Frank Capra. Whither the directorial genius today who could make us feel similarly enamoured towards the greedy, faceless breed who run our modern banks?

Where the streets are paved with gold

Posted on May 26, 2011 at 6:33 PM

It’s odd. I now have more luggage carrying capacity than I have actual luggage. My meagre worldly possessions consist of, amongst other things, a couple of suitcases, a rucksack, a laptop bag and a roll of plastic bin bags capable of taking the bulk of my tired and washed out clothes. When I move out of this apartment next month I’ll be able to shove the whole Dohren estate into the back of a family sized saloon. All I need to prove it is a family sized saloon. I do have a stash of exceedingly dodgy early paintings in my daughter’s Glasgow flat – but perhaps the less said about that the better.

Does it get me down? Yeah, course it does.


But on the other hand it’s kind of good to be able to travel light. I was always fascinated by the Dick Whittington fairy tale figure who walked to London, where the streets were paved with gold, with what little baggage he had tied to the end of a stick slung over his shoulder. For a penniless hobo I can’t think of a worse destination, yet he became Lord Mayor, and several times over, unless I’m mistaken. Good for him then, but I think most people nowadays would prefer to be a homeless vagrant than a politician.

I feel no worse off for a lack of ‘stuff’. In fact it’s very liberating.

Not for me the worries of how I’m going to find time to bubble-wrap the family silver or how to find the best method of decommissioning, transporting, and reassembling the laboriously catalogued library. No, my biggest concern is agonising over whether I should celebrate the move by buying a new toothbrush or maintaining draconian austerity measures and keeping the existing one. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re rich or you’re poor, there are still heartbreaking decisions to be made. That toothbrush has been a fine servant.

And it has to be said, the less you have, the more you appreciate what little you do have. I’m pleased to announce that the spare pair of shoe laces I’ve been using as a washing line will be making the trip with me. Fellas, it wouldn’t be the same without you.


When those early Glasgow paintings are discovered in some godforsaken Gorbals attic, say in 2080, they’ll be worth a fortune. The lucky owner will witter on about the ‘tragic life’ of the artist. My story will be made into a panto, starring the foremost D-list celebs of the day. In this panto I’ll be seen trudging to Granada with all my worldly goods tied up in a Mercadona bag.

In the Dick Whittington story they gave him a cat. I hope they give me a shiny new toothbrush. This one’s gone all splayed.

50 Not Out

Posted on May 20, 2011 at 5:58 PM

On the face of it things are pretty grim. I’ve turned 50, am divorced, homeless, jobless and bankrupt and find myself living in a foreign country where the natives speak with forked tongue. I smell of cats and could do with a visit to the dentist.

Yeah, I guess I’m quite a catch. Girls, please form an orderly queue, and hey, no pushing at the back.

But these things are relative. Three years ago I was 47, in a high earning job I loathed with a passion, and married to someone, who it transpired didn’t wish to be married to me. As for the foreign country bit, well, as an Englishman who had then lived in the west of Scotland for 17 years, I fancy there aren’t many people who can teach me much about being an outsider.

Thing is, I’m happier now than I’ve been for years.

As I ready myself to move out of my apartment (can’t afford it any more) and wonder casually how I’m going to afford that new pair of shoes I badly need, the one thought that occupies my mind is how lucky I am.

On the surface I appear to have reached the half century mark in appalling disarray, but scratch below it deeply enough and you’ll find a contented soul. Let’s be frank: there are billions of people worse off than me on this planet.

I know a lot of people who moan about how they’d do things differently if they had their chance again in life and here I am with that very opportunity at my feet.

For me the slate is wiped clean and I have a blank canvas on which to scribble a new life. As I stare out at what unknowable length of time I may have left I get to start again with the benefit of 50 years experience behind me. Grim? I think not.

I have friends, and I still have my health. And I have two wonderful grown up daughters who I’m hugely proud of. Yeah, I’m luckier than most.

So, as from tomorrow, my task is to paint that sunset I saw melting over the Alhambra last week. Then I’m going to the pub and spending the last of the money I have.

The fates can take it from there. To paraphrase Lister in Red Dwarf, if any more misfortune comes my way, I'm gonna rip its nipples off.

La Cukaracha

Posted on May 17, 2011 at 7:46 AM

Cockroaches can live for ages after their heads have been cut off. They only die because they eventually starve. They can also survive high doses of nuclear radiation. All well and good, but frankly, no one likes a smart arse insect, and although running around without a head and basking in some post-apocalyptic hell-hole might sound cool I have it on good authority they don’t like it one bit if you pour boiling water on them, then twat them with a size 8 walking boot. It doesn’t kill them but it really pisses them off.

To rid yourself of the beast you then have to scrape the soggy mess off the floor, bag it, then bag it again, throw it in the bin and set fire to it - to the whole bin. You then have to find a priest, have the house exorcised, abandon it for two years, go and live in Florida, and then come back. It’ll be dead by then (it may be quicker and cheaper to cut the heads off but then you’d have to actually touch them).

It was with all this in mind that I watched, transfixed in horror, as one of the hideous creatures skittered across the hallway floor last year. By the time I came round it had gone and I’d no idea where to. I took the approach that it had clearly been around for some time and it hadn’t bothered me unduly and as long as I didn’t have to look at it again we could agree to live and let live. I mean, these things are like rats, or solicitors. We know they’re there, and they know we know they’re there, and as long as we all stay out of each others’ way we can get along kind of fine-ish can’t we?

Nigh on a year has passed since that sighting and so far so good. I keep the house clean and I have two psychopathic cats who I hope have a penchant for insect extermination, though in fairness the signs relating to these skills are not good. They knock seven bells out of one another for fun but to see them scampering after house flies or wasps is like watching a pair of toddlers (or, come to think of it, the entire Real Madrid defence) trying to take a football off Leo Messi.

Still, the nefarious unfolding of life’s events is such that I shall be leaving this domicile very shortly, (largely against my will), but no matter. I shall consider it an achievement of the highest order should I negotiate the remaining time here without seeing another one of those scuttling little savages from Hades. The kettle’s on and I have a walking boot at the ready. Does anyone know a priest who does exorcisms?

October 14th Mostly

Posted on October 14, 2010 at 6:45 PM

The suicide of ecstasy

a pool ball on the floor

in a bottle, craves a fantasy

no harm to have one more


dignity is lost amidst

the macho strut of youth

and leaning on the tide of years

you're spellbound by the truth


They spit the woes at you unchecked

but no one cares to listen

childish memories unfold

peering at your prison


and yet you tell of plenty

what is this truth at all?

it falls on ears deaf and blind

another blanket wall


the scars live on your hands

and face, a mirror to

the agony of ecscasy

the suicide of you.

The bars of La Zubia

Posted on October 8, 2010 at 6:10 PM

According to wikipedia there are 67 bars in La Zubia. Not bad for a town with a population of 17,000. That means there is a bar for approximately, erm, everyone.


I've been in a few of them. Here is my top 10 rundown, in reverse order...


10. El Laurel - Nice meat based tapa and wonderfully eccentric manager, always attentive to his clients so fair's fair. I don't fancy the look of the kitchen but I can't complain with the scran that comes out of it. Still, a bit of a dour atmosphere.


9. La Mazmorra - Scores highly for service. Again an attentive and hard working manager, menu based tapa. Footy on the telly. Newspapers on the bar. Cool. A tad cliquey though.


8. Las Pinas – Terrific situation, Sierra foothills etc, great view down on Granada. Suffers from a superiority complex but lovely baked potatoes. Bugger to get to though and I hate climbing all the way up there to find it's shut.


7. Gallaghers – Irish pub. Let down by snotty staff. Several of them. A bit up itself in general in my opinion. Tapa is hit and miss but in fairness it's ALWAYS open - which is a good asset in a town where everything closes down with the slightest excuse. If all else fails you can always go to Gallaghers.


6. Nacho’s Sidreria – Cider bar, great menu based tapa, lively atmosphere, friendly manager. A bit of a dump but none the worse for it.


5. Las Villegas Juegas  – Suffers from a lack of atmosphere at times (ie - no one goes in unless they have a 50 Euro note and they want change out the till - much to the annoyance of the bar staff but the amusement of the customers (usually just me)) but great tapa, spacious, newspapers, peace and quiet, and free wi-fi. Great when you can't be arsed being sociable.


4. El Rincon – Prodigious reputation, tapa menu, but a little small and can be overcrowded. Punches above its weight but a victim of said reputation. Normally friendly, North African manager can be tetchy if it's busy.


3. The William Wallace – Pseudo Scottish bar. Spanish owner’s a huge fan of Braveheart. Decent tapas, music is ok, occasional lock-in, free shots. Not in the least Scottish in any shape or form - a good point I think. Customers liable to get given huge side of beef with mint sauce and potatoes for no reason.


2. The Zeppelin – Coolest bar in La Zubia no question. No tapa, no windows, dodgy characters hanging round the pool table and dartboard, horrible bogs, but simply terrific music, and open til 4 at weekends in the summer. And in the winter. They don't even offer you a glass with your bottle of beer. Can get ugly at 3 am. Only place to be if you care about your street cred.


1. Casa Peregrina – Magnificent tapas (chicken and chips, egg and chips, cheese burgers, kebabs etc etc - and sometimes even a freeby), footy on the telly, cheap, cheerful, and next door to the Wallace on one side and the Zep on the other. Argentinian owner, but live and let live eh. Perfect synergy. Not been open long but a lot to live up to already.

October 6th - One Day in the Tense Present

Posted on October 6, 2010 at 5:42 PM

at once I see it now

in the trees of my woods

but my wings refuse to fly

and still you hang around my neck

a necktie that will strangle

you don't try and get the gist of it

yet still you drag at your denial

the isthmus is so full of stamps

that scream of life, silently

to those who will not listen

a world of fools

no nothing of it matters

because we will all lie that way

and our dust will fill the gyre

of ocean black and milky and vacant

unseen records

that will whisper silently

and who will weep and why would they now?

for the eye has blinked

and washed away

the vestige of space

that you inhabit

dust to dust

in furious speed

a breath of air

has gone to seed

Andalucian Life

Posted on August 30, 2010 at 7:36 PM

As the 7th month of my arrival arrives and duly passes I thought it a good time to post some reflections:


Top thirteen things about living in Granada:


1. Proper seasons. It snows in the winter and it's boiling in the summer.


2. Acceptable political incorrectness. Men open doors for ladies and ladies like it; men give up their seats on buses for ladies and ladies like it; The other day I was on a bus out of La Zubia when the driver slammed the brakes on to leer out of the window and wolf whistle at a beautiful girl he'd seen walking down the pavement. Delighted with the attention, she smiled and waved back and we carried on the journey. No one was sued; no one went apolplectic with rage; no one got sacked. In fact, it was an uplifting, life affirming moment.


3. The respect for the individual. Old people, young people, middle aged people, are all treated with equal respect here.


4. Afternoon siestas, dreaming of where to go for this evening's free tapa.


5. Full moons over the Sierra Nevada.


6. Smoke filled bars. I don't smoke and abhor the habit but I love smoke filled bars. I also love smoke free bars. I love the fact, that in an adult society, one is allowed to choose between the two options.


7. An absence of health and safety Nazis. You trip on a dodgy piece of paving stone or fall off a ladder then it's your own fault for being such a stupid prick. Tough shit.


8. Shakira. She's on the Latino Channel all the time. I'm sure she fancies me. They way she looks at me in those videos is pretty conclusive.


9. Beautiful girly girls wearing summer dresses and being all girly - with the complete absence of tattoos, blubber, and Bob the Builder type arse cracks.


10. Senseless drinking until all hours without the merest hint of childish violence or anti-social behaviour.


11. The general lack of inclination of all Andalucians to bother themeselves learning English.


12. Proper wildlife. Snakes, irridescently coloured dragonflies as big as your fist, orange and green lizards and wild boar.


13. The Super Sol. The world's best supermarket.



Top 13 really bad things about living here:


1. The houses are freezing in the winter.


2. The telly is absolutely shite - even the Latino Channel.


3. The lack of empathy people actually have with one another. Sure, there is respect for the individual, as long as you don't interfere with anyone else. But if you got into serious bother you'd be left to die in the gutter and no one would bother their ass about you and when you died you'd be left to rot until the stench got so bad someone would have to come and scrape you away, but only because they'd have to.


4. Barcelona and Real Madrid. Jeez, it's worse the fucking Scotland. Real Madrid v Getafe? No thanks, I'd see a more competitive match watching Tiger Woods take on Stephen Hawking at golf.


5. The Sierra Nevadas - booooooring. I've seen more interesting hills in Holland.


6. Free tapas - some of it is undigestible garbage.


7. 'No pasa nada'. The Spanish equivalent of the Jamaican 'no problem'. "Oh sorry, your roof has blown off and you're about to freeze to death. Well I was on my way over to fix it and I saw a beautiful senorita and we got talking and, you know how it is, and well, no pasa nada ... "


8. Shite electricity supply. "You want more than three devices plugged in at a time? Ha ha. No pasa nada."


9. Pathetic macho behaviour amongst juvenile males. Ok, certainly nowhere near Italian levels but ref that little prick who gobbed at me from his scooter in Plaza Nueva the other week - why don't you move to Rome and be done with it, you odious little tool? I'm sure mummy will come and help you settle in if it's all a little to hard for you. And listen you tit, I remember your face and I got your number plate. I'm going to kick your sorry head in next time I see it.


10. Utterly unhelpful shop assistants. Get one syllable or vowel wrong in your pronunciation and you're screwed. I'm now self-barred from five cafes because of a slight error in my diction when requesting a cup of tea.


11. The Coviran, Granada's own supermarket chain. Sadly, it's never open.


12. Fiesta days. Want to put more credit on your bus pass? Want to top up your mobile phone? Like to buy a new pair of underpants? Needing to purchase a loaf of bread? Well I'm sorry, you can't for another 47 days because it's the feast of Saint Bollox, patron saint of discarded chewing gum, and everywhere's shut until December.


13. Slippy pavements.


Posted on June 10, 2010 at 7:31 AM

I'm feeling the pressure again and am trying to get through one week at a time. Always a good time to paint a self portrait.


Where was I?

Posted on May 22, 2010 at 9:03 AM

Sorry to have kept you.


So spring came and went, in a matter of a few short weeks, and we appear to have careered head first into summer. Temperatures hit the low 30s at the end of April, fell back a little for a week or two and have now decided that's where they'd like to be until further notice, that probably being in July when they decide they'd quite like to hit the 40s.


Fiestas abound. La Zubia had it's annual patron saint festival last week, in honour of San Juan Nepomuceno. It ran from May 14th to the 17th and was notable for the large helping of free paella I got handed last Sunday afternoon while I was picking my way through the massed throng of revellers. It was a splendid dish, containing as it did all sorts of dead animal (of land and sea, vertebrate and invertebtate) many of which where of an inderterminate identity. I spilled some on my shirt and made a point of getting it washed pronto.


Corpus Christi kicks off from May 31st to June 6th and La Zubia has another couple of fiestas in June, namely San Antonio and San Pedro.


These are nice events and the whole village/town seems to get together to celebrate but I hope the epicentre of the festivities is not where the last one was - a few hundred yards from my door. The noise, day and night, was relentless.

All change

Posted on April 12, 2010 at 8:48 AM

The painting's taking a back seat again as other matters come to the fore. I have an increase in TEFL work, and am dealing with a subsequent increase in travel time and lesson planning. Bizarrely I find myself scheduled to teach on six days a week for the next five weeks (Saturday being my day off). It's actually one lesson a day, except Monday which will be two, and the total amount of hours isn't great but of course each day is impacted and broken up.


Some of the lessons are late morning, some late afternoon, some early evening and I'll need to get my head around the new routines quickly. For instance a round trip to one of the neighbouring villages for a one and a half hour lesson can still eat four to five hours of my day if I don't swap buses efficiently. I need to work the timetables to my advantage but of course it's not always possible. At least I don't have to get from one village to another on the same morning or evening.


If I had enough cash I'd buy myself a scooter, but it's not an option right now.


Of course, this work is important. The injection of cash will be a life saver for me. Even so, the frustrating part is that the workload arrives right at the time I was putting together a plan to run some art classes. I feel these classes can be a much more enjoyable, and yes lucrative way for me to make a living out here and I'm anxious to start the ball rolling before I lose my nerve.


Here are a couple of photos from the two art classes I ran last week.


The top picture shows the students on day one while the second picture shows the finished paintings from our trip out into Granada.


Anyway, for now I'll have to content myself with backgrounding all the logistics of how I'm going to run these courses. I can work on gathering more of the hardware I'll need, nail down a price structure, and think up how I'm going to lay out and then distribute my advertising flyers.


So it's all change again. It seems to be the way of things for me out here.

La Zubia man lodges complaint

Posted on April 10, 2010 at 4:16 AM

ESPN news


Police in a suburb of Granada were this morning investigating a bizarre incident that has left an octogenerian English gentleman dead. The man, a former ground floor resident in an apartment block in La Zubia, had earlier raced upstairs to his neighbour's apartment and barged his way in.


His surprised neighbours told police that he appeared to have lost his temper and was rambling incoherently. And they should know.


He dragged each of the family members personally, one by one, around to every item of furniture in the apartment, asked them IF. THEY. WERE. HAPPY. WITH. WHERE. EACH. INDIVIDUAL. ITEM. OF. FURNITURE. WAS. Then nailed each of the furniture items to the floor using 12 inch nails and his own fists.


"Hewasveryangryandwasshoutingandsteamwascomingoutofthetopofhishead" shouted all of the family at the same time to our news reporter.




The incident ended tragically when the man apparently rammed 6 HB pencils up his own nose, gnawed off his left arm, and with his right hand ripped off his own head before jumping off the balcony.


Police have noted the complaint but say the matter remains a 'domestic issue' and no further action will be taken.


** Note **

A lot of the above is not true yet. 

Cumbres Verdes

Posted on April 2, 2010 at 4:23 PM

Some photographs taken from a recent trek into the Sierras to the small village of Cumbres Verdes.



Posted on March 27, 2010 at 6:46 AM

The other day I was wandering down the Calle Pablo Picasso in La Zubia when I chanced upon a strange sight. The Coviran was open. Unusual during opening hours on an ordinary week day. The ridiculous supermarket is usually shut and, like one of those rare enormous exotic orchids they have in Kew Gardens that only bloom for just micro seconds once every 12 years (and emit horrible odours in the process), you have to be luckier than Lucky Luke McLuck, winner of the Luckiest Man in the World competition 1992 (even though he never even entered that year - so lucky was he) to find the thing open. I went in to have a look see. Having just gone up the hill to the SuperSol (always open, come rain, shine, holiday, fiesta, siesta, blah-di-blah) I was anxious to see if stuff was any cheaper in the Covvy.


Problem was I have no idea how much stuff costs in the SuperSol. I just put the usual 5 or 6 items in a basket and hand in a massive bank note, never look at my receipt, and frankly wouldn't stop shopping there anyway even if I found out I was being ripped off because I'm not one for changing routines that have become 'safe'.


I've always wanted to shop at the Covvy. They sponsor Granada FC so I'd feel I was doing my bit for the * Blancorojos by shelling out some of my diminishing cash reserves but the powers that be don't make it easy for anyone to actually get in. I did see it open once, not long after I arrived in La Zubia and I went in and and bought some stuff. I thought nothing of it. I never realised at the time it had only opened because of a rare (and largely unheralded outside of the astronomical world) alignment of the heavenly bodies, that had seen Orion's Belt shoot right into Uranus resulting in a rising full moon. So unremarkable did it all seem at the time I took it as de-rigeour when the fruit and veg girl heaped scorn on my custom and gave me a bag of unsalted cashew nuts instead the half a pound of grapes I'd carefully pointed at. Fair enough, I thought, but it occurs to me now that should the Covvy only open to a rarified timetable the staff probably don't get much practice.


Tomorrow, I'll go the SuperSol. They know me in there and now ensure they have ludicrous amounts of change in the till at all times. I checked Old Moore's Almanack and the Covvy's not due to open again til 9:17 on Friday October 7th 2019 when a particularly auspicious conjoinment of Saturn's rings, the Paps of Jordan and Simon Cowell's teeth comes into being. They'll be having a sale though so best get there early. Be quick about it too because they'll close again at 9:23.


* It might be Rojoblancos. I can't be bothered looking it up.


Disclaimer: Some of this is made up stuff.

The La Zubia Redemption

Posted on March 21, 2010 at 6:18 PM

I was spaced out for three days last week with cranial abnormalities. I had acute something, which had been caused by a tiny scrap of anchovy residue - no more than 3.7 pico-nano millimetres in surface area, being lodged behind a pre-molar. This trapped but gorgeous fragment of ocean life had initiated an osmotic process by which my brain suffered a severe 'hydro-infusionamo tsunami-poco' (Spanish term) rendering me incoherent, and to all intents and purposes, dead for a few days.


In laymen's terms, the steady and unstemmed leaching of industrial quantities of salt from the anchovy fragment nearly caused my head to explode. I was one of the lucky ones.


The docs (gotta love them) advised me that to avoid future repetition I should brush my teeth better.


I celebrated my release yesterday with a couple of culoperros in El Rincon. I made sure I chewed them properly and  swallowed cleanly. It would be more than a tad embarrassing to be incapacitated for the same reasons again next week.


Of course, this is all tosh, though some people still believe the stuff I write is true.




As a further treat I watched my DVD copy of the Shawshank Redemption last night. The moment when Andy emerges from the 500 metre pipe of poo remains cinematic gold, surpassed only by the ending, when Red walks along the beach at Zihuatanejo (I Wikipedia'd it - you can never make the name out can you?).


I've taken on board some lessons from the film to help me deal with the strains of life in my apartment.




When my noise loving neighbours upstairs go into a chair dragging fest I will imagine them as no more an irritant than when Bogs (in Shawshank) tries ineptly to give me one behind the laundry room. An episode of metallic droppings from above will be akin to a month in 'the hole', survivable by one's ability to replay the memory of beautiful music in one's head throughout, thus rendering the period an actual interlude of welcome pleasure. Listening to 'them' rabbit on about whatever it is they rabbit on about will be no more than a severe beating at the hands of prison screw Byron Hadley, a man who will ultimately get his comeuppance (and will cry like a little girl when getting it).


The best bit will be when I come to leave and Warden Norton puts a gun in his mouth and a bullet through his napper. That'll dovetail nicely with me setting a fecking bomb off in the kitchen as I walk out the door of this place for the last time.

Granada Hoy

Posted on March 12, 2010 at 6:08 PM

My Spanish is still very weak and will remain so for some time but I was perusing the local newspaper rag this evening when I chanced upon the personals column. Not something you want to be seen reading when you're in a public space I suppose but given the fact I didn't know what anyone who happens to be looking over my shoulder might be saying or thinking I didn't much care.


There's a female student, somewhere local, staying in an apartment and looking for free secks (I have to mispell owing to the officious nature of firewalls in certain company premises). Maybe something's gone west in translation but I'm finding it hard to interpret  'busco se_x_o gratis'  any other way. Sounds like a game girl then.


It's an odd country.


I've noticed, and indeed commented on, a refreshing lack of political correctness and state nannying around these parts. It's great. But I can't help thinking something's not right. There's no apparent watershed when it comes to news items. It's not unusual to see se_x stories (sorry again) plastered all over the early morning telly coverage, nor is it a shock to see scenes of horrible violence interspersed with light hearted stories of oddball characters or cats stuck up trees on the early evening news magazine shows.


You can flick through the terrestrial tv channels and jump between soft porn ( very soft) and kiddies cartoons. Many would say 'so what?' and I've no real comment to make other than, well, it just seems a bit odd.


There's a catholic culture here that seems to permeate society -  but it's purely cultural and not in the least bit religious. They're very conservative on the one hand yet they seem so lax and liberal in many other ways. They have their festivals and processions but none if it seems to be about what these things were originally about. It kind of looks to me like how morris dancing in England must look to foreigners or how quaint the behaviour of druids at Stonehenge looks (ok I know there are probably loads of druids who are deadly serious about their activities)  but even so.


For those north of the border I suppose it's akin to the differences between catholic and protestant communities and how, even now, some people would still have you believe it's about the finer points of Christian religious doctrine when we all know it's merely a lazy, tired old cultural hangover from olden days that seems worth perpetuating somehow. 


It's as if a particular face is shown, and has to be shown, to the rest of the world while the country just gets on with being - well, itself I supopose.


This is Spain. I don't really think they care whether you get it or not. And that's the bit I like. They don't really care what people like me think. I'll keep trying to understand though I may steer clear of the personal ads for the time being.



Posted on March 8, 2010 at 6:31 PM

Noise from the upstairs apartment continues unabated. Their inventiveness never wanes though it has to be said the old staples remain at the heart of things. The 'dropping millions and millions of tiny pieces of metal on the floor' game is still the most popular. By comparison the mindless 'dragging of chairs from A to B' remains clearly second rate entertainment and stays confined to the hours of 2am to 4am.


In fairness to them though, they're not averse to new ideas. Astonishing new games have appeared this last few days. Currently popular is the 'bouncing something hard and bouncy off the floor' game, and most intriguingly is a new game they only started a few days ago. I call it the 'scraping mud off the bottom of a frying pan with a blunt pencil' game. Obviously, they try and play it as noisily as they can but they only seem able to keep it up for a few hours at a time. Clearly it's not an easy game, not like the 'hammering' game or the relentless thump thump thump game they enjoy so much, particularly during siesta.


Erm, in other news: I watched Wigan v Liverpool tonight. Somebody shoot me now. Is this what it's come to?


I met a chap yesterday in Granada at one of my friends' house who, after half an hour or so of chat, thought I was Scottish.


We are due for below zero temperatures on Wednesday night.


I'll be getting a cat. My friend Chris's cat had four kittens yesterday and one of them has my name on it. I'm calling him Ramon. If he turns out to be a girl it'll have to be Ramona.

Salty Towers

Posted on March 5, 2010 at 7:27 PM

As everyone knows, your average one and a half inch anchovy contains more salt than is present in the whole of the Dead Sea. Eat more than six of the blighters in a single calendar month and you're likely to die horrifically from osmosis before your stomach can be pumped.


A more splendid footstuff then could not present itself to the tapas bar owner here in Andalucia. That 'free' tapas is handed out in this part of the world is a given, but clearly, bar owners have to make a living. The truth of it is a little extra is bunged onto the price of your booze and though it feels like that plate of delicious grub you get handed is free - well, you know in your own heart there's no such thing as a free lunch.


Which is rather where the anchovy comes in. It ain't no coincidence that many of the splendid tapas dishes that find their way to the gormless foreigner's table contain a dead one of these magnificent creatures. Eat one of those suckers and within 10 minutes you've a thirst on you that'd see the whole of the Dead Sea drunk dry. Order another drink, and what do you get? another plate of anchovy based tucker.




I don't blame the locals for doing it. And I love anchovies as much as the next punter, but if there's one thing we all know, an anchovy and beer based hangover is something to be avoided at all costs.


It's bad enough when the hangover is down purely to anchovies, but when beer's involved it somehow seems a tad worse. So it's with a certain regret I type these lines. I've had a quantity of beer and achovy vignettes this evening. I'm a bit scared to go to bed to be honest. I've lowered the Andalucian water table before retiring to the onion bag in a vain attempt to ward off severe salt poisoning but I fear it's too little too late. I feel I've already osmosed part of my upper digestive tract.


I've even attempted to compensate for the salt overload by downing a quantity of chocolate - but that's like going to watch Hamilton Accies because you know that tomorrow you have to go and watch Rangers. It's pointless and ineffective. You'd be better off just going to watch Motherwell and be done with it.

Eaten but not forgotten

Posted on March 3, 2010 at 5:37 PM

Here's the still life that got eaten.


It's not quite finished yet - there's still a surviving apple in the fruit bowl.


Anyway, just back in from another epic night out tramping the villages of Andalucia. Another missed bus, another 3 mile hike home through the foul weather. Still, one has to laugh.

I did catch 20 minutes or so of the France v Spain encounter. Not that I was ever any great lover of them but how sad is it now to see France? They are a bunch of crap has-beens.