Tag Archives: Chris Stewart

Book Review: ‘The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society’ by Chris Stewart

the almond blossom appreciation society - chris stewart 30-4-13The thing I love about reading Chris Stewart’s books is that his portrayal of life in the Alpujarras rings so many bells with our life here. We do not shear sheep, and we are not ex-musicians, but his stories of interactions with his neighbours and daily challenges could happen here. Best in this book for me is the society of the title. The Spanish around here love to walk, early morning or evening in summer, mid-morning in winter, they walk along the country roads in groups or singly. An elderly man, his shirt and trousers neatly pressed, going for an afternoon walk. Two girls, dressed in brightly-coloured Lycra, power-walking briskly. A gaggle of village matrons, sauntering three and four abreast. Depending on the season, most are likely to carry a bag of some sort ready to forage what the countryside has to offer. So the idea of a group of men walking up the hillside to look at the almond blossom sounds perfectly feasible to me. The only difference is that they would not drink wine from the bota but probably Zocco, a firey reddish aguadiente that is the favoured breakfast accompaniment to café solo in the ventas here.
5 to remember
la representación – portrayal
la oveja – sheep
el/la vecino/a – neighbour
la carretera – road
la temporada – season

Book Review: ‘A Parrot in the Pepper Tree’ by Chris Stewart

a parrot in the pepper tree - chris stewart 30-4-13The second in Chris Stewart’s trilogy sees the Alpujarras home of the ex-Genesis drummer threatened by a dam being built in the valley. As we were once asked by a neighbour here for permission to site an electricity pylon on our land beside the river so that he could have mains electricity at his weekend cottage, I can identify with the turmoil. You move to a remote place purely for its beauty and tranquillity, then someone threatens it. Our neighbour thankfully agreed with us, and his wife, after a short discussion that solar power was the least impactful way of improving his electricity supply. As in the first book, Stewart’s tales of daily life with his neighbours are full of colour and character and make an easy read.
5 to remember
el loro – parrot
la trilogía – trilogy
el baterista – drummer
la represa– dam
la luz – electricity

Book Review: ‘Driving over Lemons’ by Chris Stewart

driving over lemons - chris stewart 30-4-13The big-daddy of ‘living in rural Andalucía’ books. Is there anyone who hasn’t heard of it? His description of watering his land, of knowing how water behaves and how to harness its life-giving properties, made me smile. His neighbour tells him he knows nothing about watering and Chris wonders if in 20 or 30 year he will have learned enough. We too have struggled with water control here, though while Chris builds sluices and irrigation ditches to water his crops, we have to deal with the run-off water which can run in torrents downhill from the olive groves above our house, threatening us with flood. Our English builder, when we first moved here, suggested building irrigation ditches to drain the water away, complete with pipes and enough concrete to build a house. But a friend of ours suggested hiring a digger for a day to cut ditches through the earth, leaving the soil piled up at the side. This was the Spanish solution: untidy but efficient and cheap. We never did get the ditches piped and concreted, the piles of earth are now covered with self-seeded shrubs and wildflowers. Every now and then the ditches are cleared again by digger, and we have not been flooded once. We, like Chris Stewart, have learned how to manage the watering.
5 to remember
la descripción – description
el agua – water
la acequia – irrigation ditch
cuesta abajo – downhill
la inundación – flood

Book Review: ‘Spain in Mind’ anthology

spain in mind - alice leccese powers 29-4-13A great book to read when travelling, when you want something to dip in and out of. There are poems, travel pieces, essays, short stories and letters from everyone who has ever written of Spain that you have heard of: Orwell, Hemingway, Stewart, Irving, Brenan, Morris, highbrow, lowbrow, and some you didn’t know about. I challenge you to read this and not want to visit Spain. My highlight? A poem. ‘Candle Hat’ by American poet Billy Collins, about artist Goya wearing a hat decorated with candles around the brim to illuminate his work by dark, giggling with his wife.

‘To understand Goya you only have to imagine him
Lighting the candles one by one, then placing
The hat on his head, ready for a night of work.
Imagine him surprising his wife with his new invention,
The laughing like a birthday cake when she saw the glow.’

‘Spain in Mind’  ed. by Alice Leccese Powers

5 to remember
la antología – anthology
la poema – poem
la vela – candle
el sombrero – hat
la mujer – wife