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Cult Sights & Sounds, Bristol, Spain & South America

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In Extremadura

Bristol Fashion: Wedlock is a Padlock

In common with a great many Bristolians, I’ve probably tended to underestimate, if not dismiss outright, the so-called Funnyman of Folk, Fred Wedlock. But age is a funny thing, and I am no longer immune to the charms of folk music. Even so-called comedy folk music. Sure, Fred Wedlock’s no Jake Thackray. Who is? Not even Jake Thackray.  But a recent, absent-minded search on You Tube threw up this surprisingly good rendition of the old Spanish Civil war tune, Si Me Quieres Escribir, sung in Spanish but with an unmistakeable Bristolian twang to it. Continue reading “Bristol Fashion: Wedlock is a Padlock”

In Extremadura, out now!

My second book is a radical deconstruction of the Brit Abroad genre (see, for example, A Year In Provence,  Driving Over Lemons)  (on second thoughts, don’t!)  Spanish/South American travelogue, potted history and treatise on the nature of mortality rolled into one, it includes predictable digressions on cinema (Orson Welles, Luis Bunuel)  literature (Javier Cercas, Tintin) peregrination,  wild swimming in Scotland, celebrity speed freaks and the death of David Bowie.  Continue reading “In Extremadura, out now!”

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Archaeology Corner: Inca Roads

Did a vehicle come from somewhere out there, just to land in the Andes? So sings George Duke on the Mothers of Invention album One Size Fits All, recorded in 1975 and perhaps the pinnacle of this, the very finest of Mothers line-ups. Well, in spite of Erich Von Daniken and Close Encounters, we can be fairly sure that the answer is no, a vehicle did not come from out there just to land in the Andes, or anywhere else. There are plenty of perfectly rational explanations for the Nazca lines, some of which also acknowledge and incorporate a relationship with the Gods/cosmos, albeit one emanating from Earth, and focusing on the entirely understandable need to believe in other worlds/higher powers, rather than entertaining the actual existence of extra-terrestrial or supernatural intelligence. Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: Inca Roads”

Archaeology Corner: Lorca, Killer Wail

Anyone with more than a passing interest in Spanish culture knows that Federico Garcia Lorca was “Spain’s greatest 20th century poet” (copyright, every single guidebook ever written about Spain) and that he was murdered by the Fascists at the start of the Spanish Civil War, either for being a Leftie (which he wasn’t) or a homosexual (which he was) or both. Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: Lorca, Killer Wail”

Archaeology Corner: Deliverance

Deliverance is the ultimate “dam” movie. Okay, so there aren’t really that many films about dams, but they do include a couple of corkers, namely Larissa Shepitko’s difficult-to-find Farewell (completed by her husband Elem Klimov after Shepitko died in a car crash, so very much a farewell to his wife as well as a farewell to the Siberian village threatened by a hydro-electric scheme) and the Argentinian/Welsh co-production Patagonia, neither of which we’re concerned with here, as I’m saving Argentinian/Welsh co-productions for another, necessarily short post at some point in the future. Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: Deliverance”

In Extremadura: Jarramplas

I’m a bit late with this one – it was supposed to go out on January 19th but I was distracted by my Deliverance and Apocalypto posts. There’s a connection of sorts, though, in that the peculiar tradition of the Jarramplas, which takes place in Piornal, Northern Extremadura, is in its way as sacrificial as what the Maya get up to in Apocalypto, while the people of Piornal are every bit as fond of their squealing pigs and attendant embutidos as the mountain men of Deliverance. They are, quite literally, the mountain men of Extremadura, Piornal being the highest village round those parts, and this is what they get up to, every January, on Saint Sebastian’s Day. Continue reading “In Extremadura: Jarramplas”

Archaeology Corner: Prisoners of Bunuel

Tierra Sin Pan (Land Without Bread) is a documentary made by Luis Bunuel in Extremadura in 1932, during Spain’s Second Republic. This was, I need hardly tell you, a time of huge social progress and equally violent unrest. King Alfonso XIII had abdicated and a progressive coalition of Republicans and Socialists had come to power. The government was attempting, amongst other things, to introduce an eight-hour working day and solve the “land problem” by giving proper tenure to agricultural workers. Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: Prisoners of Bunuel”

Archaeology Corner: El Derecho de Vivir en Paz

All translations by Google*

El Derecho de Vivir en Paz (The Right to Live in Peace) is a song by Victor Jara from the 1971 album of the same name, which also features the songs El Alma Llena de Banderas (Alma’s Up To Here With Antonio Banderas*) and Ya Parte El Galgo Terrible (I Went to a Terrible Party in Wales*). It was Jara’s expression of solidarity with the people of Vietnam, who in their desire to “live in peace” had comprehensively defeated the French in battle and were, when he wrote the song, giving the Americans a good hiding as well. Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: El Derecho de Vivir en Paz”

Telegram From Guernica by Nicholas Rankin

Book review, first published in THE GOOD BOOK GUIDE, 2003

On the 26th April 1937, at the height of the Spanish Civil War, the civilian population of Guernica (or Gernika, as it is known in Basque) was bombed by Franco’s nationalist forces. It wasn’t the first time civilians had been attacked from the air, but the sheer carnage of Guernica shocked the world. The man who did most to bring this atrocity to light, and who galvanised the expatriate Picasso into painting his greatest work, was George Steer.

Continue reading “Telegram From Guernica by Nicholas Rankin”

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