A couple in Volterra, Italy

A couple in Pontedeume, Spain


Spain, Czechoslovakia, France, and the rules of grammar

What a country!
Pontedeume……Oviedo……Lugo…..Caceres…….Santiago…. Pontevedra …… Malaga……Pamplona…..Oviedo……Vigo….
I was only there for a year but I’ve such fond memories of so many places.

Who was the guy who fiddled his way through Spain? Landed at Vigo with a violin and great expectations? Mmm  L-something… Lionel?..Leslie?…. nope. Gone. See my memory? The name’s departed, flitted off, no longer accessible.

Anyway, what was I on about? Ah yes. Czechoslovakia. Whatever happened to Czechoslovakia? There was a civil war, I remember that much though between who I’m not so clear about. Should that be ‘between whom’? And should it be ‘about between whom’ (you can’t end a sentence on a preposition)? But can you have concu –
One thing I remember though: when I was 15, in France, on the Seine, a wee village called……..anyway I had learnt to swim there and with all the confidence of teenage youth I struck out to see how far across I could swim. But along came one of these long sinister wave-making barges. A wave broke over my head. I tried to clear my nose. I went under. When I got to the surface I tried to swim back to the shore. Unfortunately I had forgotten how to swim. Then I was breathing water. Then air. Then water. Then more water.
And then I remember opening my eyes to see this circle of bright faces looking down at me. Angels. This is heaven, I thought. I have drowned and my mother is going to be so upset. Then what had happened came back to me.
“Ou suis-je?” I asked, very correctly (Miss Yule would have been proud of me).
Two guys, fortunately good swimmers,  had seen my plight and dragged me ashore.
Yes, I remember all that as though it was yesterday. But it wasn’t yesterday. It was ………..years ago. Dear god, long long years  ago!
Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, Laurie Lee, the ‘Cider with Rosie’ man. But what was the book called, the one about his trek through Spain? He landed in Vigo, with a violin and all the confidence of youth and a way with words as well as with notes. But what was his book called? ‘Travels with a Donkey’ , that  was Robert Louis, but what was Laurie Lee’s book called?
Do you remember?

I suppose I’ll have to google it. Now how……


I first saw this bird in Spain on a drizzly morning in Antequera. With time to spare I had wandered off to look at an underground prehistoric site. An entrance had been dug out to the site and with no-one but me there I walked down to the gate I could vaguely see at the foot of the cutting. The gate was locked. I turned to go back and there at the top of the cutting looking down at me was a large, black, 3-legged dog which did not move as I walked towards it. When I was close enough to touch it (not that I did or wanted to) it turned and moved off and then I saw near a pile of rubble this strange bird, a hoopoe which I vaguely knew had some mythological link to the underworld.

The first time I saw a strange black dog was in Mississippi in my student days in the 50s. It was late. It was dark. I had been given a lift to the edge of a forest near Natchez. Although it was past midnight and because it was a fine, starlit night, I decided to hitch on. The problem was that there was no traffic. As I walked slowly along, looking over my shoulder for the friendly lights of an approaching car, I  heard an animal call from the forested right side of the road and an answering call from the left. As I walked on I became aware that the two animals were converging either on me or some location just ahead of me. Then I could hear from the forested left side of the road, moving parallel to me, the heavy breathing of some animal and away to the right a  similar call from an animal not so close to the road.

I stopped. I took off my rucksack.

Just ahead of me a large black animal stepped onto the road, too big for a dog but like a very large mastiff and it too stopped.

Now since then I have told myself that when it turned its head to look at me or in my direction its eyes glowed red but this may have been something I thought after it had gone.

I stood, ready to run, then at the call from the other animal it crossed into the forest on the right and for several minutes I listened till the silence came surging softly back.

I picked up my rucksack and continued on my way.