Sunday, 1 May 2011

House Sounds

Our house is not a terribly noisy house, nonetheless it has a few sounds, which to my mind are comforting and friendly and reminds one that a house is a living entity. A more wooden house would emit far more creaky and settling noises, but as ours is mainly tiles and concrete – or in fact rubble and rock, as it is an old house built in the old way, it is therefore relatively quiet, but it still breathes.

I will try to eliminate sounds from outside of the house, as in church bells and children playing football in the street but feel that I should include the sounds from the houses on either side of us as they travel through the walls and therefore become a part of the fibre of the house itself and are changed and distorted by the walls they travel through. Although to be precise the sounds from one of the houses, that is the one on the left as you leave by the front door, is empty now and therefore is for the most part silent, unless, as is happening of late there is work being done in it. But that is sporadic and therefore not comforting but unsettling.

As I sit here writing quietly the first sounds that reach me are indeed from outside, children shouting and screaming coming from far off and suddenly two people talking outside the door, it sounds very close; a man and woman, in Spanish and I do not catch the meaning. And just now a skateboard has gone by too – very noisy and so I try to filter out the outside noises as they distract from the actual House Sounds. “Be quiet you little pigeons”

Ahh! The fridge has just come on with a gentle enginey sound first of all, followed by a series of slurps, which sound like the cooing of the pigeons I have just asked to be quiet.

And now that the fridge has ceased its slurpings for the time being, although it is still humming gently, I hear the constant beat of the clock; the heartbeat of the kitchen. Tick, tock, tick, tock, methodically and somewhat laboured as if it is having an effort keeping time. And yet it does. Relentlessly it ticks on, counting out the time for eggs and buses.

Oh! The firidge just moaned a little – just once. A little mroarr!

And during the time I have been writing about the clock and the fridge there is the occasional ‘ting’. These sounds are from our new kitchen lights. They are hanging lights that look like wonderful chrome teardrops. It would be honest to say that they are our pride and joy at the moment.

Fridge: Mworrr!

They work perfectly for what we wanted, which was over the counter down-lighting, but we have found that they are better than expected, for as they light the surface area perfectly they also emit a wonderfully soft light which makes the kitchen a wonderfully tranquil work environment. If I have one complaint about the lights it is that as they have long life energy saving bulbs they therefore have a slight delay and then a warm up period when first turned on before they achieve full brightness. But frankly the ‘tings’ make up for that.

Fridge: Murrr!

Light one: Ting

Light two: Ting, ting

Clock: Tick, tock, tick, tock

And as I concentrate on the sound of the clock it appears to get louder and then to recede. Louder, recede. And yet it still ticks on with a relentless beat as it wears away the day.

Fridge: Ayeeeearh morrr! As she warms to her theme

My laptop is blissfully quiet although every so often she sort of tinkles and clinks as the hard-drive decides on something it needs to remember and if I put my ear to her she is humming steadily like the thrum of distant bees at work in the forest.


Tinkle, clink

Tick, tock




And then

BLUNK! Crack! As the fridge seems to want to break itself apart, but remains as one unit luckily as I can only imagine the mess it would make if it shuddered to pieces spewing out its contents of beer, cheese, gone off prawns, pickles, mayonnaise and milk among many other things.

Tick, tock


Fridge: Mmmmmmm! Mmmmmm! Mmmmm!

Then from next door in the wall behind me, the very distant sound of feet walking up or down the steps – it is always hard to tell. But then I hear the clink of a key turning so I know that the person from next door is on his way out and the door scrapes open as it is hung quite badly and so drags across the marble step every time it is opened – which upsets me deeply as I know what damage it is doing to the marble every time it opens. Cutting a groove and quarter circular scratches deeper and deeper until the stone will be ruined.

Which reminds me of how I used to have to beg my mechanic to change the windscreen wiper every time he serviced the car as I could hear the exact same thing happening to my windscreen, which made visibility hazardous especially in the dusty summertime or the low-light sharp winter. Still, he was really only trying to save me money in the short term, and yet I already knew how true is the saying: A stitch in time saves nine.

‘Ting’ from light three

Eeeeeeeehahhhhooooeeeeemrawrrr! From the fridge

Vic and I love the fridge – I know it seems materialistic, but like the lights it is more than the sum of its parts for it is not only statuesque in proportion and not only keeps the beer cool and the eggs fresh but it also at times sings like a demented cat or makes us start so with its bunking and banking. We call it our pet fridge and have developed a great fondness for it, for the life it brings to our little house.

And now, even though I said I would not include outside sounds there is a mad jabbering of birds. I cannot work out if they are coming from fore or aft of the house and therefore they seem to meet somewhere in the middle and thus become a part of the House Sounds and so therefore I believe are justifiable in their inclusion.

When one climbs the stairs there is a whole series of creakings and gruntings for every single one of the steps makes a sound. Some much, much louder than the others and all completely different. Of course that is a sound that is made by movement in the house, not exactly the house itself.

As I move through the upper floor I pass my office with my harddrives purring and whirring. I pass the toilet and listen as the cistern plips or plops or sometimes sirrrrs! And then the ceiling – which has old wooden joists delights me with an involuntary creak and a pebble drops from the roof or perhaps the supporting wall within the attic space. It is a reminder that I must get the roof seen to in time as it is old and somewhat crumbling.

And so that is all of the sounds that our house holds at present, perhaps not that many, but definitely worthy. I walk back through the house and down the stairs again; creak, craaaack, cric and through the hall and into the kitchen where the clock ticks mercilessly on, never once losing its beat. I sit on the couch to resume my writing and my ankles crack a bit. Ah! Human sounds, now that is a totally different story.

P.S. photo is of one of our House Angels

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Forest Keeps Calling Me Back

The forest keeps calling me back. I have been having some health problems these past few months. I suppose it is my age. This has made getting up to the forest difficult. I will not let it deter me however and will keep going back.

Last Sunday I made my way up as usual. It is a pain just getting there to be honest. It is all uphill through the village and tests one on a bad day. Sunday was a bad day and by the time I got to just the very beginning of the forest I was hanging. I walked on a bit into the trees, but my legs had begun to tremble and I knew it would just be plain foolish to go on. So I turned back. And on the way home I thought about all the things I might have seen in the forest.

I might have seen that bright red fox with the steel grey eyes, he would have looked at me in that cool, aloof way of his, with one paw raised before he turned unhurried into the undergrowth and disappeared completely for all of my looking.

I might have been chased by a great big golden eagle – swooping down and raining blows on the back of my head as I ran for cover. I would have to run fast as lightening so as not to be swooped up in his talons and taken to his huge nest where he would try to feed me to his babies.

I might have encountered a flock of joyful thrushes singing their songs of love and adoration for the world and all the worms that live in the earth. I would have danced with them for a while singing their song and spitting out the worms, for they are truly vile before cooking and even afterwards can be full of grit and so inedible.

The singing thrushes may have led me upwards through the trees where I could have gathered baskets of wildflowers and spring mushrooms. Thyme and fennel of course, rosemary and little black pitcher orchids, boletes and chanterelles and big snuffling Wild Boar may stumble by, with his little piggy eyes seeing nothing, but his big piggy snout smelling out truffles barely covered by moist and crumbly earth.

The warbling thrushes would then hand me over to the little birds; the sparrows, the wrens, the finches and the tits. A huge swarm of feathers and tiny beaks that would tickle and tease me as I pelted down the mountain again only to be dragged back as they playfully grabbed every available inch of my clothing, fingers and hair and rose me up in the air like a child dancing in the wind. I would be laughing so hard that my eyes would water and so that I could hardly breathe and they would take me higher and higher until my toes would be tipping the very tops of the trees.

And then I would have looked up at the clear blue sky above me and sighed a sigh of great happiness knowing how rich I was to be able to fly this way high above the world – a world so beautiful that it never ceases to take my breath away. And with that the little birds so colourful and gay would start to let me down as their own little chests were gasping for air, exhausted by the impromptu roller coaster ride they had treated me to.

I might not have landed so serenely as I left the ground – with a bit of a bump perhaps, but I would be happy to roll on the forest floor in the pine needles. And when I would stand up I would be covered from head to toe in needles and grass and bits of bracken – my mother would have surely scolded me for coming in in such a state. Well in actual fact she would not as she never did scold us for getting dirty in the garden, she rejoiced in it too, for it meant we were healthy and sound in body as we had been leaping around have such fun together as children.

And by the time I had thought all of these thoughts I was standing outside my own little front door of my crooked little house where I live with my Vic when he is here. Which is another thing that I wish for over and over again – and more than all those other things, one day I know it will come true.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Getting What You Wish For, But Not Exactly on a Star

Ok, Ok, I have got what I deserved. There I was bleating on about how I was such a hypochondriac and wallowing in my new-found sicknesses and ailments. But now I find that one thing just seems to be following the next and now I have a super-duper cold, complete with deep-throated chesty cough. Well, enough is enough and I am officially sick of being sick!

But that is one’s comeuppance I suppose. You pretend for long enough that you are a hypochondriac and then the great finger in the sky hears you – well perhaps that should be the great ear in the sky hears you and it is the great finger that points at you and a bolt of lightening shoots out of the tip and you are struck down with the dreaded Lurgy or at least the Plague!

I am sick of being sick! I have been sick for the most part since my Victor left me just after Christmas, what with my shoulder, other mysterious ‘female’ complaints and now this ‘Thing’ that wakes me in the night with hot sweats and body wracking coughing attacks. I have even been dreaming of evil bile and running sores and vomit! Let me get well! That is a desperate plea to the universe to let me rejoin the human race. For heaven’s sake there are wars erupting on the planet and earthquakes and other real tragedies and catastrophes and all I can think about is my own stupid nose and wretched throat.

So I am turning over a new leaf. Yes, again folks! A new leaf that states that I am no longer a hypochondriac or even a pretend one. I am going to beat this cold and am going to get back into the swing of things. I have a to do list as long as your arm already backed up behind me and I am going to start ticking things off it ASAP.

You know, even though I really am feeling lousy and did tell some people that I had the Flu at first just to illicit a bit of extra sympathy (but honestly my bones really were aching) I am still doing more than most.

I continue to get up in the morning come hell or highwater and even though jogging has been difficult I have still walked my route in the mornings, well most mornings. I plug into my ipod shuffle and listen to my Spanish tapes too in order to keep my mind active as well. I then get home and doggedly attack my Spanish lessons. I learn verbs and I practice conjugations and I write endless essays, which to my delight are yielding fewer and fewer red marks when they are returned to me, so something must be sticking. I am really happy to report that I am definitely coming to learn the most simple form of the past tense as well as having a grasp of two other past tenses. I have even started to make sense of the elusive ‘subjunctive’.

I love learning languages actually. They are extremely frustrating when you first begin and then there comes a shift when the pattern of the language starts to set into your brain and you can literally see the pattern in your head when you are speaking. Of course the final stage is when you don’t actually have to think at all and you simply understand and know how to say things automatically. That is the point when you start to dream in that foreign language as well.

I think the hardest part is that point when you realize that to improve you simply have to sit down and learn rules and irregularities and that there are no short cuts to be taken. That is when you realize the enormity of the project you have taken on as you look at the size of the dictionary and the book of verbs. It is also very frustrating when at times you find you take two steps forward and then another one back and you feel you are achieving nothing.

Not to mention of course the whole pronunciation bit of the language, as well as trying to understand people when they speak to you in various dialects and at a rate of knots. Nighmare!

I have been learning hard now for a year and a half. A year and a bit of that time has been while living in Spain of course and during this time it has been easier to pick up phrases and also to get help from friends and neighbours. Everyday is a practical lesson as long as you get out and about and make sure that you ask questions in shops and insist on speaking to people in Spanish even though sometimes you really do not make a whole lot of sense.

I originally gave myself two years to become fluent in the language. I don’t think I will be far off that target if I continue with the momentum that I currently have, however that is another snag in the learning of anything, loss of momentum or burn out. I am trying to pace myself and keep up a steady programme but boredom is an enemy and also other projects which come in and take over your life from left field – under the heading ‘projects’ I also loosely include sickness which can really scupper all your best efforts from time to time as was proved directly after Christmas when the extreme pain of my tendonitis caused me to put off the start of my new lessons as I could neither sit up for very long nor dress myself, let alone concentrate on anything.

So a cold is nothing really. I will continue to battle on and promise to “think positive” as my dear friend Brian used to say to me, many moons ago. And speaking of moons. Did anyone see the moon last night? Apparently it was the closest to the earth that it has been in some number of years.

Forgive me if I do not remember how many years, I was too busy staring up at its bright face and impressive size and was in complete awe of the nature of its incredible beauty and wonder……..!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Spanish Noise and Therapies

It is not a criticism – but an observation. I am not the first foreigner in these parts to comment on this particular characteristic of the Spanish.

Noise. Spaniards do not know the meaning of quiet. I don’t think there is any such thing either as a shy Spaniard. Even the children are completely relaxed about talking to strangers almost as equals. They do not lower their eyes and hide behind their mothers – well perhaps at times very briefly as they size up a strange foreigner who does not speak Spanish very well and is called something strange like Mary. Mary Poppins is a point of reference I am pleased to note, as that is one of my favourite films of all time. But generally they are quite happy to speak to anyone about all and sundry even showing off their counting skills – however limited.

Why do I mention all this now? Well, this morning I had to go for my first physiotherapy session at a Spanish clinic.

It is funny because I have been agonizing over what to write about this week. Feeling quite blocked really as I have not been in the least bit creative lately. My illnesses and social life seem to have taken over. In my case it is really true that I have to suffer a bit in order to be creative – albeit mentally rather than physically. When I am lonely and introspective I have all these ideas for images and themes. I am rather happy and contented at the moment as I have found myself to have a circle of friends! I feel that for a solitary individual this is a very strange state of affairs. I have lived my life very much as a loner always but now people call me up and call to see me or invite me out or round for meals or drinks. What on earth is going on? Maybe it is part of being in Spain – a much more gregarious place than anywhere else I have lived.

But that is a digression –

There I was agonizing over my non-materialising blog when all of a sudden I found myself invited to what was, in my eyes, the most bizarre group physiotherapy session that I could ever imagine. Obviously it is normal in Spain as no one else there seemed remotely concerned with the strange events that unfolded before my ‘Irish’ eyes.

I have never been to a physiotherapist before so actually I have nothing to judge my assumptions on, but I always presumed that the sessions were done in a small consulting room on a one to one basis. Here I walked into this madhouse where one or two older ladies were rolling large objects backwards and forwards on a table, a man was sitting under some contraption that obviously warmed or vibrated his shoulder. Another woman was lying on a couch having her hand manipulated by the physiotherapist and another lady was sitting under a sun or heat lamp. There was also what seemed to be a totally healthy woman with two children – a small baby and a delightful little girl who was trying to show off her aforementioned counting skills 1,2,4,6,11, 8…etc.

Of course all these people were talking, all the time and all at the same time. Laughing with and talking to the children and holding other conversations between each other. In the midst of this reigned the Physiotherapist – a lovely young woman, named Ana, completely at ease with the situation, although every so often she did say a general shhhh! To get everyone to pipe down a bit so that she could introduce the next exercise to one or other of her clients.

Especially for me it was a little difficult to say the least. I am certain that on a one to one session I would have understood every word she said to me as she spoke clearly and slowly to me, but under the circumstances and the loud and boisterous background noise, I had the greatest difficulty even focusing my attention on her, let alone understanding. Still she actually did speak English too, for which I was heartily grateful. So I did follow and do the exercises and therapies that she presented to me. And then I sat under the sonic wave machine which gave me a deep muscle massage – I am not sure it is quite what I was expecting, as I was expecting something that will dissolve the calcium deposit in my shoulder, but perhaps that does. What do I know? Anyway I am certain she knows what she is doing and time will tell. Oddly I am not experiencing any extra pain and perhaps even some slight more movement than previously in my bad shoulder – so I can only assume that the treatment, however bizarre the ambience, is working already.

Regarding deep thought. No, none. I spent the time trying to understand and follow some of the conversations that were taking place around me. I find it completely frustrating that I understand so many of the words perfectly clearly as single words, but there is something about the way a foreign language is put together that means that, in my own head at least, most of them remain as isolated words and are not hanging together to make any extra sense to me – they are obviously more than the sum of their parts. I can only sigh and hope that it will all start to hang together for me soon.

Maybe I just need to start yelling like a Spaniard and it will suddenly fall into place.

The photo? I thought it vaguely resembled the group therapy session of this morning. It is of me and my brother and one of my sisters showing an alternative to normal sitting. Why sit the right way up when you can sit upside down!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Getting Back on the Horse

Hello Bloggees!

I am back.

Obviously Christmas takes its toll on routine and an ability to sit down and find the time to write and this year just as I had put away the Christmas tree and dusted all the corners in anticipation of starting a fresh batch of work in the new year, I was struck down with tendonitis.

It is hard being a hypochondriac when you have the constitution of an ox and I have struggled to be ill for many a long year. Even my little hormonal imbalance is practically completely non-eventful and as much as I talk it up the symptoms are almost non-existent and the side effects of the medication go almost unnoticed and now, to add insult to injury, my doctor has taken me off the medication all together and everything seems to have fallen into place for the first time in my whole life it would seem.

So when I got the first twinge in my shoulder I stoically decided to avoid it and bravely self-medicated with alcohol (in my opinion the most useful legal drug in the world) and went down to our local bar to take photos of a band for whom I have been designing a poster. Every time I turned my huge and heavy SLR on its vertical side I felt a terrible tearing, but decided to ignore it and simply topped up my alcohol levels to counteract the pain. I figured all would be well in the morning after a good night’s sleep.

How wrong I was! Eight o’clock in the morning saw me crawling down to the ‘Urgencias’ after a pretty sleepless night. I got an injection of something and some tablets which turned out to be pretty useless and spent the next week battling with pain and various painkillers until finally I had to take myself off to the big hospital in Malaga for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Anyway, to cut a long story short – Which is never really my intention – I was out of action for a further couple of weeks with my arm in a sling and just trying to sleep and get better. Sitting at the computer was painful, so even writing emails and, of course, my blog was not possible. And then when all the drama was over I had so much catching up to do on all sorts of mundane things including cleaning the house and changing the bed linen that blogging and everything else creative has just taken a back seat.

So that is my excuse for this year. But I think I tend to lose the run of things at Christmas time anyway. When you work from home and do not have any deadlines it is hard sometimes to get your foot back on the accelerator after any significant down-time. But now I feel almost fully fit again and even went for my first forest walk last Sunday, which was a real head-clearer. I am jogging again too and am starting to feel stronger and fitter by the minute. And now my Victor is coming home on Sunday as well and we have so much to do I think that the next week will pass in a blur.

Which it has! And of course another excuse not to finish writing this and posting it. So now I will. Not too many profound thoughts here this time and a very late start to the New Year for me. But at least now I have begun again…..

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Trying to Count my Blessings in the Face of the Big Chill

Oh my goodness! Has all of Europe, or maybe the whole world gone freezing cold!

I have to remind myself that I did have the most spectacular summer that I have probably ever had in my entire life just put behind me. That is the only thing that is (just about) keeping me going the last couple of days.

It has not helped that I have not been able to get warm again after returning from Norway. We had temperatures there of -3 to -8 and I was so torn between wanting to be with my beloved Vic and returning to what I thought would be a warmer Spain. Well it is, but still cold and also wet at the moment. Add to that the fact that as our house is still under construction it is not yet properly sealed and insulated against the cold weather and we have not yet got our promised wood burning stove in. I know that that will make a huge difference to the overall temperature of the house, but at the moment it rather seems to be a bit of a pipe dream. And right now I have chapped lips!

Still I try to remain positive in the face of all the weather and all the other difficult things that are going on in our lives at the moment. I also worry about my children when I am feeling like this and wonder what the future holds for them in this rather uncertain economic climate of ours.

But these are the musings at the moment as I find myself at this low point now, where I am just after my exhibition and deciding what is the best way to go forward.

Well there is one positive thing, I have finally started to set up my very own website, not a blog, (which is really just for me to talk about whatever I want to), but a proper website with all my pictures up on it and where people can go and look at the art and also buy what they see, if they so wish. It is still under construction so I will not post the address here just yet – but I will soon. I should think it will be up and running by the weekend.

I suppose the second positive in spite of the chill factor is that I really feel an improvement in my Spanish. I have always found that shutting off for a spell can actually help and that is what I did when I went to Norway to visit Vic last week. It wasn’t really intentional as I did take my audio tapes with me so that I could listen while walking, but as I did not do as much walking as I had intended to, owing to the cold, I did not actually manage to get my earplugs in at all the whole week and in fact spent a happy time trying to remember some Norwegian, which to my delight I still could. Not all but more than expected. So much so that I keep saying ‘Hei hei!’ to people now instead of ‘Hola!’ although I am back in Spain – they probably think that I am mad. Well actually I don’t suppose they would be far off the mark there!

But getting back to that point, yes, after shutting off the Spanish for a bit I have somehow absorbed more of what I have learned and feel that my skills have stepped up a notch. And it feels good.

Another blessing is that after two and a half days of almost solid rain the sun is now trying to raise its head.

And I suppose the biggest blessing of all is that in a mere two and half weeks Vic will be winging his way home to me for Christmas!

So there, I have suddenly talked myself around again to looking forward to good things to come: Christmas, Vic, Websites, talking to friends in Spanish as well as English and also I have been reliably informed that this cold spell will be taking a break this coming weekend so I might get myself warmed up a bit then.

Saturday, 20 November 2010


Well I watched it. I waited until I had finished the very last cut of my final lino block for my exhibition because I had a feeling about it. And yes, when I sat down and watched it from start to finish I recognized the fact that in his film ‘Avatar’ James Cameron had stolen all my ideas about the interconnectedness of nature.

Of course it is not just my idea and that is why it brought to mind the zeitgeist.

When I was in college there was a lot of that sort of thing talked about, also the collective unconscious which could sort of explain why the zeitgeist can happen. It fascinated me then and led to some work concerning twins as I figured they were more connected than singletons. I like the idea of a certain amount of involuntary telepathy between people and the world which they inhabit. I love those quirky news stories too about the telepathy and sixth sense of animals too. I also like the way my ear gives an involuntary twitch when it hears a sudden unexpected sound just like a wolf’s ear listening for a rustle in the undergrowth. I also quite enjoy the feeling of the hairs on my neck rising when I am reading a scary book or watching a scary film.

But I digress a little bit as I was talking about the zeitgeist. However, the zeitgeist at the moment is about the interconnectedness of nature and it is about green issues and global warming and all those sorts of things. Which is a good thing in my opinion. Of course one could argue that this interest in these issues has come about through advertising and education and of course there is an element of that and one could also argue that it has come about at this time because of the very fact that global warming does seem to be having an affect on this little old planet of ours, changing the seasons and the weather patterns. Why here in the Costa del Sol it rained last winter for three months solid! Weather absolutely unheard of in recorded history! Mind you if the Spanish lived in Ireland then they would really know about rain!

Still the rain is vital for the earth to keep on living. We are now in the happy position of having enough in our reservoirs here for the next two summers (this one already gone of course – which was three). And that is one of the things I do so love about the world we inhabit. It has such a neat way of taking care of itself. That does not mean that it can support all its inhabitants, and I know that this is an unpopular theory but there are too many of us people. We have been far too successful at breeding and becoming a menace to the planet and so the planet will simply eradicate us, or a lot of us at any rate, in its own way. It is not something that most people seem to want to face I know, but the fact is that there are too many people on this planet and we have dirtied it and destroyed parts of it – perhaps irreversibly, but as the eternal optimist I think not. However changes will have to be made. And here I know I am not alone – this is the old zeitgeist coming up again – which is why there is so much art, films, literature etc etc about nature and global warming and other green issues.

And ‘Avatar’ is about that too. I know it is also written in the old ‘Hollywood’ or ‘American film format’ in order to make it a blockbuster. The story did not interest me at all to be honest. It was completely predictable. It was not even the special effects. It was primarily the save the planet thing and then the planet will save you and I did love the imagination that designed the creatures on that planet. I suppose the correct term for what interested my was the subtext or subplot – but those trendy terms are too much for a simple-minded mushroom picker like myself.