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The Art of Derek Dohren

painting, writing, photography



Living is easy with eyes closed

Posted on March 3, 2010 at 6:10 AM

A few quickies:


I got my NIE sorted last week and maybe forgot to let you know. It was only slightly painful and I got the distinct impression I was fast tracked a bit because as one of the clerks in the office said conspiratorially to me "you're one of us" (I assume he meant white European - oh dear).


Today's weather forecast cheerfully states Granada has a '100% chance of rain". I like the way they don't sit on the fence.


I set up a fantastic still life scene yesterday in the apartment. It was made up of a couple of apples, a pineapple, a hunk of bread, with some cheese and olives, and a bottle of beer. It looked so good I ate it before I had a chance to paint it. Happily I did take some photos beforehand and have produced something worthwhile. I will post up the painting when it's complete.


Last night I walked 6 miles to the wrong village, then another self correcting 3 miles to the right place to go and teach someone at short notice. Thankfully I had left in time to allow for such a situation. I missed the last bus home and had to walk back - 3 more miles. In short, I left the apartment at 18:40 and got home at 23:30, nearly 5 hours of which all but an hour and a half had been spent on foot. Still, I got 14 Euros so no pain, no gain.


I was pretty wasted by the time I got in. The best part of the day was hitting the sack though I foolishly finished off the remainder of the pineapple (from the earlier still life) before I retired and then immediately wished I hadn't.


Anyway, I have to practice my Beatles songs for tonight so farewell for now...


Oh, and I can confirm it's just started raining.


The Cumbres Verdes

Posted on March 1, 2010 at 3:45 PM

I live in the northernmost end of La Zubia - the bit nearest to Granada. The thing is, La Zubia sits on the slopes of the Sierras and north is at the bottom of the hill. This always seems counter intuitive to me. North should be 'up' and south 'down'. I had the same problem in Lanark. The South Vennel is at the top of the High Street and the North Vennel at the bottom. It's just not right and I never got my head round it.


It seems the good burghers of La Zubia agree with me. They have a few cast iron streetmaps welded onto lamposts dotted around the town and they all depict north at the bottom of the map and south at the top, as if to confirm that uphill and downhill are more relevant than north and south. It seems to make sense to sensible people though I admit to being thrown the first time I encountered one of these maps and thought I had got my own geographical bearings of exactly where I live all wrong.




Disillusioned with being permanently starving while the shops here always seem to be shut I went for a walk this evening. I turned left out of the flat, left again, right, then left, and then just decided to keep going up and up and up and up. South if you will. Within 15 minutes I emerged from the far end of town and into the 'Cumbres Verdes', our very own foothill mountain range. One of the peaks here (Trevenque) reaches a respectable 2,000 metres - a fair height - and within half an hour I had a magnificent vista of the Granada plain laid out below me. All I had done was go due south and 'up' (it still seems wrong) from leaving the flat. Impressively simple.


However, due to knackerdness (I'd already walked for two hours in Granada earlier in the day), impending darkness, and vague hopes that the shops might be open back in La Zubia, I turned back with much of these mountains still to be discovered. Forty minutes later I was back in town. The shops were still shut and I was forced back into a bar and the oppressive cerveza/tapas treadmill. It might sound great to you to but a) I can't afford to be going to the pub every night, and b) my body's not designed for heavy sustained periods of drinking.


But it was a great discovery, that I've got walkable mountains a walkable distance from my flat. Next time I hike up there I'll take the camera and let you see the sights. It's nice but seems to kind of lack something in terms of drama. I don't know what it is. The countryside here just seems... scruffy. That's the only word I can think of.


It's still not as good as Scotland.


Or the Lake District for that matter.


Or, let's be honest, Lanark Braes.


Here's a map I found. I reckon I reached between the number 2 and number 3 of the bottom scale. Height is in metres of course.


NIE jerk

Posted on February 19, 2010 at 3:36 PM

Efforts to get myself a NIE number (Numero de Identidad de Extranjero) are progressing, though progressing only in the same way that continental drift is. The NIE is the obligatory identity card cum national insurance registration all of us EU immigrants have to have. I'm told I need to carry it with me at all times (my passport too) and should I get stopped in the street by a pair of bored policemen initiating a routine check failure to have one or other of these items about my person may result in several hours down at the nick. It happens apparently.


As my plans here include the notion of trying to flog some paintings on street corners I figure getting myself fixed up with all the right documentation is probably prudent. At least then, as they confiscate my stuff I can wave my ID card at them before I get the time honoured kicking for good measure.


Of course this being Spain it's already taken me two trips into town to get as far as I have - which is merely to get myself a copy of the correct form. Not bad going I'd say considering on the first trip I made to the police comisaria office I got told I was in the wrong place (naturally) and I'd need to go and visit the nearest British Embassy. They thought there was possibly one in Sevilla, but failing that 'there's definitely one in Madrid'. Ok, well thanks for that. Helpful, not.


I found an official who was willing to listen to what I actually wanted and she informed me that though the comisaria used to be the correct place to visit for getting this sort of thing done it no longer was. I was indeed in the wrong place. More promisingly though the place I needed to go visit was conveniently at the other end of town. She gave me an address but no map or helpful tips on how to get there. I went home and left it for the next day as I was already too depressed to continue on. Anectdotal evidence from those who had gone through this procedure already told of 5 or 6 hour long waits, over several days, in sweaty offices and I wasn't in the mood.


Name: Dohren, Derek

Nationality: British

Distinguishing features: irritated, bemused, befuddled, top of head missing.


So, next day, in probably the most violent and sustained period of rain here to date, I walked 2 miles across the city looking for the right place, a place I was fully expecting to turn out to actually be another wrong place.


I eventually found it, some sort of local government office, went in through the security body scanner, and was confronted by a waiting throng of about 50 people, all of them clearly of various nationalities. I informed Mr. Security what I was requiring and he asked me where I was from. 'Liverpool, England' I said and handed him my passport. He gave me a form, which I subsequently learned was the official NIE application form. I was then given a ticket with a number on, told to sit down, and then informed that when my ticket number appeared on the big screen on the wall (he pointed at the big screen on the wall to emphasise this point) I should proceed through those doors there (he pointed again at those doors there) and go and sit at that desk there, the one with 'number 11' above it (he lengthened his arm to full capacity to indicate desk number 11).


I sat down and prepared myself for a wasted day. Bizzarely, I'd only been sat for 3 seconds when my number popped up on the screen. Clearly it was a trap and I looked around to see if anyone else moved. No one did so I got up and went in through the doors to go and sit at desk number 11 like I'd been told. Obviously it can't have been my turn already but I thought I'd plead ignorance - my number was up on the board after all.


No one was behind the desk 'serving' but several people were being seen to at other desks. One of the female Vogons at one of the desks, a hatchet faced harridan clearly having a bad day, shouted something over to me. I deduced from the tone (though I couldn't understand a word she said) that she was asking 'oi, what the feck do you think you're playing at?' I ignored her. Within a few more seconds another fembot appeared and sat down at my desk. I showed her the NIE form and she laughed. 'No, no, no' she said, shaking her head. I didn't have the will or the vocabulary to argue with her and waited to see what city she was going to send me to next. Obviously the downturn in events was my own fault for being lucky enough to be seen to so quickly.


As it happened though it wasn't so bad. She got out a calendar instead and told me to come back on February 23rd, at 10 o'clock. It was a 2010 calendar too. There was nothing else to be said on the matter and that was that. I felt quietly pleased that steady, if unspectacular progress, is relentlessly being made. My tectonic plate may well be another half centimetre nearer to colliding with the Spanish NIE shelf by next Tuesday. Who knows?


I'll keep you posted on how that goes then. I'm assuming I fill out the form before I return though doubtless the office will be closed all day of the 23rd owing to some saint's day or other.

las longanizas

Posted on February 18, 2010 at 4:08 PM

La Zubia has a character who gets on the number 174 bus and talks to everyone and to no one in particular. It also has another man who wees in the bushes in the small park in the town centre, while kids are running round playing. At least, I think he's weeing.


In fact, come to think of it, I hope he's weeing.


La Zubia has cafes that don't serve food and others that appear to shut at lunchtime. I can't work out the local siesta rituals, either the exact times and who does and who doesn't take part in it.


It seems to rain a lot, except for last Friday when it snowed a lot. All the buildings in La Zubia are designed to drop massive gobbits of collected rain water on your head.


It has a barber who deliberately misunderstands what you ask for and cuts off all your hair. But he's cheap.


It has an enormous amount of dog poo on the pavement.


La Zubia has three language schools, one of which appears to operate with no staff.


A longaniza is a long thin pork sausage. I saw a news item tonight about them.


I like it here but sometimes I pine for Lanark.

In other news

Posted on February 16, 2010 at 5:33 PM


I've cut my thumb with some scissors;

I kicked a bucket of water all over the floor;

I bought three large mugs in a tourist shop but was ironically unable to find a shop that sold tea-towels;

I got my door knocked on by Jehovah's Witnesses;

I've slung a washing line across my living room using four shoelaces ties together;

I bought a printer/photocopier/scanner;

I'm using my Seville bobble hat as a tea cosy for a jug I'm using as a teapot (sorry Al);

I bought salt for the first time in my life;

The woman in the upstairs apartment likes tap dancing;

I've still not eaten that pineapple I bought;

It hasn't snowed since Friday;

In the bars of La Zubia, not only is the tapas free, they give you a menu and ask you what you'd like;

In La Zubia they even close the gates of the park during siesta time;

My washing machine is eccentric;

In Spanish the word 'bordillo' means 'kerb' in�English English but 'curb' in American English. Go figure that one.

They have a Humphrey Bogart season on in Granada. There is an advert doing the rounds with Humph, as Rick in Casablanca, with the Alhambra behind him and the slogan - "We'll always have Granada".

Zubien Art

Posted on February 14, 2010 at 7:05 AM

Well here's my first effort from my new home. What else could I paint other than the Alhambra? I had no references to hand so merely used an image on the cover of a streetmap as a vague reference to shapes and so on. I pretty much abstracted the rest but wanted to see if I could produce a�quick�yet�acceptable smallish image (A4) good enough to sell to tourists. The result is ok and the spontanaiety is there but I'll hopefully�get better. It will be good for my painting to produce smaller and quicker images.

Still freezing

Posted on February 12, 2010 at 2:32 PM

Well I finally moved into the new place late last night. By the time I'd handed over the requisite two months worth of rental cash, signed the contract and decided upon which room I was sleeping in it was already way past midnight. The apartment seemed freezing despite the alleged efforts of the wall hanging air conditioner thingie and a rather lame electric heater which was sat, Andalucian style, under a coffee table which in turn had a heavy velvet cloth draped over it and reached down to the floor (the idea is you sit around the table and pull up the velvet cloth over your knees, thus exposing your legs to the warmth under the table). It sort of works but screams fire hazard to me, or at least, badly burned legs hazard.


Anyway I turned in and suffered a night of unbroken misery. I was going to sleep in the second room and leave the master bedroom alone but at the last minute decided to switch. That was when I discovered the master bed to have unwashed bedding. No thanks.


So I camped down in the smaller room with the single bed. When I woke, confused and in pitch darkness, I was frozen to the core. I got up, switched on another electric heater I'd found and tried to bed down again. Still frozen. So I got up and put a third layer of clothing on. I was then just about warm enough to get some kip but far from comfortably.


I left the apartment this morning with a big shopping list. I had absolutely no food in and lacked most basic consumables. I got as far as the cafe on the corner (about 20 yards) and decided to detour in and have breakfast - as many others seemed to be doing. So that was pleasant enough. The telly in the cafe showed scenes of snowbound Bilbao and temperatures in some Madrid area mountain range of -7. A small item of news then followed showing some CCTV footage of a group of youths kicking another one senseless in some Spanish town somewhere during the eary hours of some night (presumably recent). It felt more like home by the minute.


I then found an excellent Chinese store where I was able to buy some light bulbs, an iron, a kettle and a spanner. I needed the spanner to take two of the legs off the table with the velvet cloth. I needed to take the legs off the table with the velvet cloth so I could move it into another room. I've decided to move the table with the velvet cloth into the room I'm going to use as an art studio. I'm moving the table (without the velvet cloth) into the room I've decided to use as an art studio so I can use it to paint on and to rest my stuff on. I have removed the velvet cloth as it's nasty and fairly useless but now I'll need to buy something cheap and nasty to throw over table so I don't get paint on it.


Well then, blah blah, I made two trips to the Chinese shop, none to the food shops and within the hour was in the Wallace with Chris who'd shown up with some lame excuse but had freely admitted he wanted a hamburguesa.


When we came out of the Wallace it was snowing and it was freezing. All the shops were shut because it was siesta time so I decided to walk to the mini shopping mall (it's pretty rubbish) about a mile or so out of town. I knew they had a Vodafone shop there and .... Is this boring?


I'm bored typing it.


When I came out of the mall the snow had reached blizzard proportions.



Cars with snow on them.


I got back to the flat looking like a snowman. I dumped my food bags and checked on the washing. The machine had finished so I opened the door and was greeted, rather disappointingly I felt, by a massive tidal wave of water that gushed all over the kitchen floor, a drowned sock left hanging limply over the lip of the opened hatch.


So that's a malfunctioning washing machine and dodgy electrics already discovered (the electrics all tripped out this morning - reason unknown).


All in all an odd day. There are many things I'm not happy about with my apartment but I suspect many of them are down to simple unfamiliarity with things. The cushions will have to go and if the weather doesn't pick up serious consideration will have to be given to purchasing one of those industrial gas burners that shoot massive flames out the back.