Friday, 7 May 2010

Latest work

A couple of weeks ago, an artist friend of mine, Kate Kirby, went out on a limb and gave me some lapis lazuli and a Cypriot fertility cross that she wasn't using in the form that she had them.  This is precisely the kind of reworking -- kind of like visual editing - that I like to do.  The lapis lazuli were as a simple string of graded beads, the cross came by itself. These are the results: 

The fertility cross photo is of work that was still in progress, but I wanted to play a bit with the idea of a rosary, but without keeping strictly to that structure.
And the end result of the lapis lazuli beads.
Anyway, just some last things for people to see.... Thanks Kate!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Okay! Yes, I found my way back. (Friday the 13th of November is patently not a good date to blog!)

To begin with, a picture. Yapa in the window on Sunday morning, the view from my bed onto the tree outside which is now beginning to shiver off its last leaves. The undressing of the trees as Autumn creeps over the windowsill.

Then, finally, I had to see what all this facebook hoopla was about, and have to say: not convinced. Words! Stories! When I come up against a 420 character limit, I know I'm in the wrong place. I don't understand it; don't get it. It seems like a glorified picture album: here I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

But, I wanted to tell of some meanderings today that took me from one place to another -- that is the beauty of the internet for me -- and I couldn't. So I said I would here...

This morning I had to wake up early -- a shocking 6.30 in the morning -- and wait for various calls to the UK to go through, so I started with Sundance -- that's kind of a regular for me -- to see whether there was a Facebook site. There is: and promptly linked into various things from there. First, the bit on Banksy, the graffitti artist. Because of the melting snow in Utah, one last bit of art has now revealed itself and I kind of like the idea of that: art being affected by the seasons. Now you see it, now you don't.
Then, as anything with a horse on it will catch my eye, I got lured away by The Horse Boy. The visual beauty of the trailer is stunning, check it out, here
or here....

The Horse Boy

The Horse Boy Coming to DVD on April 20th: Pre-order now at

From there, of course, I was intrigued by Zeitgeist and went to check out their website. That was certainly worthwhile. This looks interesting:

And so I hooked into the New York Times article talking about the film, which you can find here:
called "Thinkers in Transit, Philosophy in Motion". The best bit has to be when the filmmaker AstraTaylor expresses her doubts: "If people found talking-head films uncinematic, what would they make of a talking-egghead film?" Had to giggle.

I did try to share all with people I thought might be interested, via Facebook, but couldn't... it doesn't seem to be very happy with narrative. So, I decided to write it here.

Then, as it's still only 11 in the morning, remember I got up at 6.30, and my phone calls to the UK have all gone through, I realised that I could still get some writing done. So, bye for now, glad to back, blogging is so much better.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Nearly gone with the wind....

Wow, for four, no, five official "followers", you sure are a demanding lot. And even the unofficial ones have been making noises. And I thought nobody was listening. Okay, okay. Yes, it's been a long time. Sorry folks. Though it would be nice to say that the future is promising for more constant correspondence, we're heading into the Christmas season and soon on a reccy mission to southern Argentina, so busy, busy.
But, putting the world and it's business aside for one moment...
Well, happily, life returns to normal in Argentina -- to its chaos and unpredictability and its unkempt streets and wayward dogs and something new: strong winds coming up from the Patagonia. Usually the winds come up in August and everyone shuts their eyes for a month and grits the sand between their teeth while holding out to September But from all accounts, that month was fairly quiet, while October, and now November, have been windswept and turbulent, blowing the topsoil off recently planted seedlings and giving everything else a pitch of 30 degrees, and pretty much knocking out the internet service. A late frost has badly affected current crops, but word on the streets is that the 2009 wine harvest was excellent, so you might want to be looking out for those malbecs soon.
Really, at the moment, it's a game of "Pick your Plague". When the winds have finally died down, they've usually trailed along late night frosts; when they disappear altogether, then the temperature has soared to 32* C, and bugs start, literally, crawling out of the woodwork.... (it's an old house, that was neglected for too many years.) At night, we've heard termites gnawing and while it's good news to learn we've got the house for another couple of years at least, it's just as well that it's not ours: there's so much to set right.
They say that further south the winds are fairly constant, but that's to be seen in early December as we head on a mission to flog wares down San Martin de los Andes way. Meanwhile, feather and leather, bead and seed are coming together in the hopes that it's somewhat less conservative in its tastes than San Rafael. It's also a community featuring many more indigenous people and their own work, which should offer inspiration for designs.... and other dynamics and interactions to think about. It is obvious that there is a socio-cultural reevaluation occurring regarding the indian heritage -- only last month a large conference took place here in San Rafael, aimed at incorporating native history into secondary education -- but it's still a fairly recent -- and superficial -- phenomenon.
Well, there's work to get back to. Besides the things we want to take south with us, there's editing and translating to do and the water needs to be sent back on its way....that's for the next installment: riego and rodeo Here, however, are some pictures....

Wednesday, 9 September 2009


Okay everybody, yes, the link does still work, it's just that nothing has been posted since having got to the's been, uh, let's say a bit of an experience. Culture shock was always something that happened to unsuspecting tourists in slightly odd restaurants, or if you were thrown together with your hairy cousin Igor from Batslavia, but not really to the wordly travellers. However, after having settled down for a bit more than a year, travelling has now become something on a par with having emotional root canal. It hardly seems possible to get worse at something one has done for, oh, a quarter of a century, but it appears there is a limit to absolutely everything. There hardly seemed any point in conveying the dislocations associated with being outside one's "zone" -- funny, there's no "duck out of water" phraseology... so, the writing has been well reduced this past 6 weeks. But, and here's the bright spot, I acquired a camera and have been experimenting every weekend, when there were opportunities to see friends and be in real environments. So, I'm posting pictures on the condition that no one ask me how the rest of my trip was....

Saturday, 1 August 2009

The Hustle and Schwoomp of it all....

It's been more than a week, but there's no knowing whether I'm here yet. Here, being London. England. The UK. All names for places that no longer seem to have anything to do with where I've arrived. Since being sucked up into a bus on Wednesday evening (July 24th), it's been hermetically sealed vehicles connected by long hermetically sealed tubes adjoining hermetically sealed hotel rooms to later be conveyed to futher tubes and forms of transport and connections to yet more anonymous rooms. The risk of ending up molded into a drumstick shape and plastic-wrapped seemed high. ID cards were issued, with barcodes and passwords, but nothing to keep one's eyes from slewing across flawless surfaces and nothing to hear but the hushed schwoomp-schwoomp of sliding glass doors requiring "proximity cards" and the distant muffle of people talking in other rooms, always somewhere else.

It does seem that if someone hadn't said, "uh, you know, we might like to keep a few trees," it would be wall-to-wall pre-fab concrete and glass, with laminate and flourescence from here to there. The unrelenting sterility immediately brought on a cold to go with the jet-lag, keeping me trapped and languishing, and offering way too much time and opportunity to ponder just how far from my life this all really is. Hmmm.

But on my daily track there's a deep velvety red rose deserving of homage as it rebelliously beckoned through an otherwise perfectly squared-off hedge. By some miracle it has managed to cling to it's perfume that evokes another, darker, more intimate world seeping away through the cracks of modernity...

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Pre-Flight Bumper Edition

Okay, this is a bit of bumper edition as I haven't posted much lately and I don't know when I'll be able to post again. I'm taking this show on the road from tomorrow evening when I leave San Rafael for Buenos Aires, to then fly out on Friday morning for London. I'm hoping to retire this laptop -- faithful soldier that it's been these last 5 years -- for a slinkier model, so it might take me a while to get back up and running. But, I've been accumulating things in my head and it's getting crowded up there, so I'd better make some space. First off, pictures, and it's been a busy month.

We went from this:

To this:

And though it still ain't perfect, it's a whole heck of a lot better, with the best being not having the view from the kitchen window insulted by this eyesore every morning before I even had a chance to get coffee.

So now the view from here is:

Isn't that better?

Then, as we now boast gas hot water and heating, we could actually invite people for dinner -- not my specialty as I still find cooking here foreign territory and I was more than happy to be able to say, oh, too bad, only have two chairs -- but I caved in and went scouring round town for chairs. Now the way that this is done here, typically, is that you go to the local furniture store as no one wants "old" any more. But I like old, the older the better, sometimes. So in one of the few second hand shops there were four excellent chairs to be found, but the bonus was this lovely little ladybug who had winkled her way unnoticed into a corner for a ride home:

I popped her onto one of my latest plant rescues and they seemed to be getting along just fine. It's midwinter here, so it seemed a nice little nod towards good times to be had round the kitchen table.

But that's still minor news compared to the bookshelves! I am now in the very strange position of having shelves and no books, rather than the more usual, books and no shelves. Among other locations, the hefty load of my books have been slumbering in a Florida basement for over a year now -- many, I haven't had to hand for almost four! But, they will come one day, and there will be shelves to receive those patient, world-weary travellers.

Years ago, Andres saved a set of shelves that were being ousted for more modern press-board versions from a five-and-dime that was "upgrading". A dozen drawers had also managed to escape that fire and the shelves were shelved for a while. We dragged it out, looked at it and turned it round in our heads a couple of time -- yup, we can -- and finally came up with a solution for the depth of the shelves: make it accessible from both sides. We built a facade for what had been the back to match the front, sanded it all down It's now awaiting the correct varnish -- more stirring of colours in our heads -- and since Saturday we have "His and Hers", back-to-back bookshelves down the centre of our very accommodating living room. We've got a 10-year goal to have the best library in San Rafael, but given the abysmal state of the municipal book-borrower, which has been the booty of every low-browed bureacrat looking for a desk-job, that's not saying too much. But on Sunday morning, the light streamed into the living room windows, setting the middle two shelves aglow and though the ladybug has since buggered off and my side of things is still empty, it seemed another good sign.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Have pen, will travel...

It's good to be stomping over familiar ground, finally. Brunel University have invited me back for a repeat performance of teaching this summer in London, and so that and the chance to catch up with the spinning top of the world have got me on the move again. It dawned on me that I don't know how to pack for a trip you actually return from, so accustomed I am to going and staying. (What? I don't have to take everything?) So strange it will be to come back home that I'm actually much more excited about going than I would be otherwise. Across the terrain, there have always been some rabbit holes to duck into regularly -- especially the Cambridge publishers BPC and the History Department at Warwick University -- and for however intriguing it's been to go discovering, it's so much better knowing the people and easier knowing where the pens and the teabags are. So Brunel's another good thing.

We're working like little elves in the workshop, as I've already had some requests to bring our handmade belts. If there's anybody interested, have a look at the website, send me an email and I'll send you details... Patience is required, but the photos do load eventually...
The suitcase snaps shut (hopefully) in two weeks time!

Friday, 26 June 2009

The Bigger Picture

Strange day yesterday, as two icons of the tail end of the baby-boomer generation died: Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. In some ways, one could say, two sides of the same iconic coin…. Farrah Fawcett, pinup popular, unwittingly made my life a trial as there was simply no way to even begin to compare to what seemed like a dizzying abundance of feminine buxom blondeness that kept my teenage brother and his friends on edge and weak at the knees. As he was endowed with limitless high school popularity – girls called him up, for goodness sake – it was with some satisfaction that I recognized that you-can’t-catch-me glint tempering Farrah’s otherwise come-hither look. But based on my experience, I would say she had as strong and lasting an effect on women as on men as she epitomized the desired and the desirable In 1976 she set the bar high, impossibly so for those of us with a leaning towards “pale and interesting” rather than “blonde and beachy”: but no, this, this is what boys want.

And what were we girls left with? Michael Jackson. Though it wasn’t until 1982 and Thriller that he reappeared on suburban horizons (you were in a cultural coma if “I’ll be There” passed you by in 1972). But hmmm, this was a much trickier set of ideas. Girls could hardly exact revenge on the Farrah Fawcett boy brigade with Michael Jackson: he was about as sexy as Donny Osmond and just about as definable. He wasn’t threatening to men with barely restrained masculinity, nor was he heartthrob material for most girls I knew. Was he an icon to the gay community? Except for emulating his moonwalk, he didn’t seem to be role model material for young boys in the way Farrah Fawcett was for young women, grudgingly or otherwise. But then again, despite a notably darker, suggestive look nothing to do with FF’s overbubbling vitality, he didn’t seem to attract gay male iconisation either. And as far as I know, he didn’t have the Liza Minelli effect on lesbians either.

Record-breaking sales worldwide attest to Michael Jackson’s career as a pop artist while posters adorning 12,000,000 bedroom walls – or ceilings, in my brother’s case – also are proof that a key nerve had been, uh, touched by Farrah Fawcett. But interestingly, while Farrah Fawcett spent her remaining career trying to lie to rest (sorry!) the pinup popularity, and usefully refocusing attention on the physical abuse of women – that repugnant battering of beauty – Michael Jackson seemed in prickly fashion to repudiate any group that might have claimed him as their own: blacks by visually rejecting his own identity; gays by touting a stage-managed farce with Marie Presley way after it was safe to come out; straights and gays and parents and children by coming under the suspicion of child molestation; and just about anybody with an annual financial budget less than Sheik Abdullah, son of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain where Jackson lived for the last years, for threatening to be just another bad loan for Bank of America. Neverland on the never-never.

So what was it? Did boys at home feel the need to reaffirm themselves and their desires more at that key moment, anticipating that the gender-blending, role-reversing struggle for women’s rights would have many men left-footed? If so, then Farrah Fawcett must have been the healthiest balm in Gilead going for many a love-sick boy struggling to find his way across wholly new territory in the late 70s, early 80s. I no longer begrudge them – and, well, I finally embraced my blonde Floridian roots, too. And did Michael Jackson’s anodyne metromix-before-its-time, what a friend described as “a parody of sexuality as to be nearly obscene- like those child beauty contestants parading around in makeup and miniature cocktail dresses, singing words and miming behaviour that they don't really understand”, somehow provide a suddenly danceable, almost easily listenable antidote to the gun-blazing, tough-striding John Wayne image that had been until then the US’s more common currency abroad? Did he offer a welcome flipside to the Reagan-Bush dirge that began playing right around the same time? If so, then perhaps Michael Jackson did his bit, too.

Or perhaps more importantly, to those of us who are living through women's lib and gay rights and AIDS epidemics and 9/11 and post-9/11 these events are only relevant as the death of a woman, a former beauty icon, of cancer at 62… in a nation still lacking a health system, but with enough money to wage an ongoing and outrageously costly “war on terror”, an enemy with no face at all. And the death of a man, consumed by his own image.

P.S. I wanted to add images, of course, of both MJ and FF, but the copyright law around it is sooooo complicated, that I, with my lowly PhD can't figure it out. More about copyright, lovely copyright, later.

Sunday, 21 June 2009


Well, I've just cleaned my house -- with petrol....or some kind of petrol-based derivative (is that redunant?) For almost two years now, I've resisted, I held out. I did, I tried. I rose above the abashed looks of locals trying to politely ignore the dust tracks through the living room. Honestly. But the done thing, the only thing used on floors here is lampazo -- which is just short of canned lightning and probably only half as dangerous. The stuff is irresistibly effective and has the extra kick of keeping the feminine population slightly says "inflammable" but understandably no one suggested making a fire this evening, though it is the first day of winter here. But, man, are my floors the business. (Is it 1954?) It's late, I'm knackered, so this is going to be the briefest of bulletins.

Re the dog: lots of people asking about the deug.... no my deug dez net bayt, becuz zat is not mai deug. But the 2-monikered "Pirata", alias "Buffy", pronounced "Bouffy" here (in good Clousseau fashion!), waits every morning for his mistress to come round the corner. He's old, ancient, in fact, and more than a little blind -- he kept running into the garden furniture until we all agreed not to move anything -- but sits every morning in anticipation of his owner's arrival. So I took the photo.

I'll be back.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Ahhhhhh...... that's better

Yes! It's arrived! Hot water, on tap! And far from being a let down after all the waiting, it's spectacular. How the daily things can become some prized if you don't have them. So now the house is taking on a wholly different atmosphere. I'm cutting a swathe through the dust bunnies that have accumulated as I went on strike these weeks: I wasn't going to fire up a quematutti to clean and then have to do the whole exercise again to have a shower afterwards. My dream last night of the entire living room floor being covered with clouds and clouds of dust -- kind of like looking out of an airplane flying over the weather -- shows just how far things have gone down the dusty road here.

And I've enjoyed glorious freedom these past two days as I am no longer tied to the house waiting for workers. So, slowly the threads of past projects are being picked up -- the weaving, especially -- and I've got some ideas cooking in my feverish brain. Or it might just be that my showers are too hot lately...yippee!

Monday, 15 June 2009

The gasman cometh....not

We'd love to be in a bit of hot water, but no such luck....40+ days after beginning the work, we're still without a water heater, though we do now have some heating. And just in the nick of time as it's getting cold in the pre-cordillera with temperatures just hovering around freezing at night. But at the moment the world could be spinning backwards for all I would notice as day after day is spent in waiting for plumbers who tell me "tomorrow, tomorrow" and then never show. As much as one tries to resist becoming entirely consumed by this non-event, I've only just managed to keep the translation and editing work ticking over while the rest of my life is temporarily -- one hopes -- shelved. Plumbers are the new rock stars of Argentina, and especially San Rafael which is constantly unfolding itself like one of those board games, expanding itself by the minute. So the remainder of our work, the last details of refitting the water heater -- already 80% paid for, more fools us -- has been dropped for something far more lucrative down the road and some undefined moment when the idols of the moment, the princes of pipes, once again run out of jobs, and money.

Still, yesterday for the first time I cooked on a real stove -- instead of a 2 ring burner -- without worrying whether the gas cylinder was going to run out mid-meal and felt "at home" for the first time since moving in. Someday, I know, I will be done thinking about walls, windows and flooring and will actually focus on something more interesting again. I do remember reading books, once, and weaving, once, and once, I recall, I had an idea or perhaps even two.... But for now I'm stuck in some Argentinean version of Waiting for Godot.

The one accomplishment -- though a few have reported problems regarding opening the website, so do let me know -- the one achievement is that there is now a website with a few of the things we make in the workshop. There are many things missing still, but it's a start.
Have a look at:

Meanwhile, I've got some waiting to do...

Monday, 25 May 2009

500 words a mile...

Perhaps there’s some key gene missing, but I don’t get the point of selling one’s self to line someone else’s pockets for 40 years. The house-car-2-week-vacation morsel of life doesn’t seem much of a compensation, either. In one of my first jobs, working in a real estate office as a secretary, I remember being thrilled by the new pens and a ledger book, and lining up the ruler with the side of the calendar pad…for about an hour. And then the ledger book didn’t seem quite as Dickens as it first promised, and the pens weren’t much either. Had it been entries of bales of silk from Chow Long, or copying in best hand the effects of a sale of an entailed estate, well maybe. But this wasn’t London Docks or the 19th century, and the photocopier pretty much ruled out longhand no matter how much empty time I disposed of. So I sat there for two weeks flipping through the pages of the ledger concocting stories of the lives behind all the names of the buyers and forgetting to note their pale choices of avocado or wheat-coloured washer-dryer sets, and beat a track for the door. Had it been even a bit remotely worthy of a full-blown Bartleby the Scrivener, I might have turned the desk to the wall and typed away a few years while wallowing in intense disenchantment, but I soon realised I was trying to infuse colour into a polysaturated landscape and there had to be something more to see.

Today, nearly 30 years later and many of those who aren’t downing a couple bottles of something every night or second-mortgaging some fleeting moment of merchandise merriment via e-Bay seems to be contemplating their get-away. Okay, there is a flock of friends and acquaintances in the midst of babydom, still or again, who are probably too busy, too exhausted, or too nerve-wracked to even consider the unbeaten path, but being a firm believer in the worm eventually turning, there is some small satisfaction in the email that says, “oh, how nice it must be not to be tied to a job, mortgage, the school run….” Some of those things were just how the cards have played out over the years and there is, of course, the ever-attendant cohort of “doom and gloomers” that does manage to keep me awake at night worrying about the future. Much good that does me. If they weren’t the same ones who 30 years ago tried to warn me that a degree in English would make me unemployable (ha!) and lead nowhere (ha!ha!), perhaps I would give their soothsaying more credit. But does it just seem so to me, or is there some kind of inverse relationship between the amount of living one does in the here and the now and the amount of the retirement fund? I don’t want to retire. Ever. Why have the kind of life one would want to retire from? Again, I don’t get it. They’re going to have to shoot me. Like old horses.

So what am I trying to do?

Well, while I was writing up my thesis, I set myself the task of writing 500 words a day. Sometimes they took hours and hours, sometimes I was out of the house and reading a book in a Madrid cafĂ© by mid-morning. Whatever it did (and the thesis did get done) it made my writing sharper and my thinking clearer, and right now I feel about as sharp as a bowl of porridge. If you ask me for the deep-down truth, I think that for me it’s directly tied to thinking too long about houses, plumbing and other fixed-down things. Bruce Chatwin at least once proposed the connection between walking and thinking. Yup. But as for now, this year, we have the good fortune to have a house we’re not mortgaged to, I’ll just have to let my words do the walking for me. 500 words a mile.

Monday, 18 May 2009

La Loo

It appears that my Quematutti has been a bit of a hit, especially with the men! Well, here's another treat for you. The loo mechanism!

This is at about adult eye level, so any mother would be permanently flushing the toilet if there were kids about. Inside the gaping hole, in a classic Argentinism, there is a bit of alambre, or wire -- the solution for everything -- that has been attached at my insistence. Boy, did they think I was dainty for refusing to flap my hand about in the water in order to make the loo flush. But my familiars will know that only yesterday it was that I overcame my fear of slipping down the drain hole with the bathwater.... this is like reaching into the maw of a dragon!

In travelling, you begin to realise that there are entire cultures built around plumbing. In much of Latin America, it would seem to "northerners" that there is an untapped market for toilet seats, while in Egypt (can't say about other Middle Eastern countries) one would often find grippy, rubber strips on the bowl itself. Hmm. Until it became clear just how handy those nonslip strips were when one stood perched on an otherwise slippery porcelain bowl. Back in London at the university there were little stick figure drawings on the back of every stall door to indicate that standing on the toilet was definitely a no-no.

Now, for some reason I haven't fathomed yet, I appear to have one of the very few bathtubs in Argentina. Again, for those who know me, or who have lived with me in England where it seemed the only way to keep this re-potted tropical plant warm, a bath is essential. The gas still isn't in yet, so I'm working on a strategy for how to keep the Quematutti stoked up outside, while having a bath inside...

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Quematutti!

It is what it calls itself, in Span-Latin, a burn-it-all and my campfire badge is in the mail. Basically, a hot water heater perched on top of an open flame, the whole thing sat precariously close to not only the house, but also to the water pipes and internal electrics. As the yellow pipes are the new gas pipes that have been put in this week to connect to the mains, the whole kit-and-kaboodle has been pulled about two feet from the wall. The plumbers -- extraordinary by any stretch of the Argentine imagination for their punctuality, diligence and goodwill -- kindly rebuilt it so that there would at least be hot water until the gas is approved and turned on. There's no heat in the house as yet, except for the fire in the living room -- the quematutti only does hot water -- and the temperatures have dipped well into the single figures, so here's hoping the new gas gets approved tout de suite! And then all of it can go, leaving a big fix-up job on the wall. Meanwhile, chopping, chopping, chopping...

Friday, 8 May 2009

The night of the Pericote

Online, there seems to be no picture anything like the pericote visiting the other night! Online you will find pictures of these cute little animals the size of a kiwi fruit. So what is a pericote? The closest thing I've ever seen to it were the dark rats scurrying under the subway lines between trains at the 59th street station in New York. Got it? Now make it twice as big.

It sounded like there was a dog eating from a plastic bowl outside. The only thing I could think of was some passing dog had wanted to explore the bucket of clothespins. But it just didn't sound right... And then again. Hmmm? Turning the light on in the kitchen made the noise stop. Turn off the light, there it was again. Light on, no sound. Light off, plastic rustling. So, standing on the table I looked onto the top of the closets, and there it was: huge, and ratlike. It bumbled off up onto the eaves, which are exposed as the final ceiling hasn't been put in, over the top of the roof, crossed to the living room, went down the other side and disappeared. Well, that's it, would have thought. I had just cleaned up there last week, so I knew there wasn't anything up there he might be interested in. Lights out...

About a quarter of an hour later, plastic rustling.... at this point, I probably should confess to having become very good with a slingshot, as being able to disperse loose and threatening dogs along the back lanes is a good talent to have handy when one cycles. And as autumn sets in and the acorns are falling, there was a stash just by the door.... besides I don't want to kill the thing, I don't like to kill anything, just send it on it's way. It got the message, set off with an acorn tattoo, and hasn't been back. What had it found so interesting? A plastic bottle filled with ant spray that it managed to gnaw or claw its way into! It seems that word gets around in the community and there have been no further visitors.... perhaps Finca Mingo pericote hospitality just isn't up to much these days.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

A house, finally....

well, a finca, or small farm, really. It's been a while since the last posting, but it's been a tumultuous few weeks.... But here goes!

It might not look like much at the moment, as it's been in the hands of people who just haven't cared for years and years, but soon it will be back in shape. It has some beautiful features, especially the windows across the length of the living room and an open fireplace, and it's set on 12 hectares about a 20 minute bike ride from town. Which means no more hearing mums scream at their children through the walls...what a relief! The fruit trees -- peaches, apples, quinces, mainly -- have been badly neglected, too, but that has to remain a secondary priority as it's not a working farm. It's just another one of the many farms that have been left to wither away as people head in droves towards towns. So although everybody thinks it's crazy to move even one house beyond the city limits...there is silence at night, real darkness so that you can see the stars, and space, lots of space. All things that seem to terrorise townspeople.

In my next posting: the Trials and Tribulations of the Quematutti (woodburner) and The Night of the Pericote....

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Technical difficulties....

Hello All!
Yesterday I posted the entry "What a difference....a day makes," but it never showed up in my browser, so I posted it again....and again. Sorry, everybody, if you got it three times! (Better safe than sorry?)

I´ll be a little bit more patient next time.

Hey, by the way, all of you who are posting comments to my email, why don´t you try to post them as comments to the blog? I´ve made some changes and it should work without having to jump through so many hoops.


Friday, 3 April 2009

What a difference....a day makes

As the song goes. Yet, today, I woke up with the sensation of not quite being here yet. The morning crept slowly over the hills, dripping sun into the valley like honey on toast. There was a hummingbird in the tree just outside the window, picking at the small red berries and the “kerchew, kerchew” of another bird I still don’t know the name of. Otherwise, the stillness is immense but there’s been too much gadflying going on lately to really feel of an adequate size to it. Having one or two more days of move, carry, shove, paint, sweep, shift, lift to do, that’s fine. Time to settle down into busy-bee mode, and then later, perhaps by Sunday morning when everything has found a place, there will be that charge that comes from becoming conscious in a BIG place.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Along the foothills of the Andes

Up until a few weeks ago, I never had a camera of my own. Now I do -- thank you, Michael -- so can finally show a bit more of where I am. I say Argentina and people immediately think Buenos Aires, but I've come via a different track. The flight over the Andes from Santiago de Chile to Mendoza City is one of the most spectacular there is and the entrance is laced with vineyards rather than tango bars and one is more likely to see horses than bandoneons. Here, the Pampas begin their endless stretch to the southeast.

I suppose it might just look like empty space, but it's not. It's harsh and it's clean and makes you pull your shoulders back and set your jaw to it and just get on with things.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Kein Schwein ruft mich an....

Okay, so I was complaining a bit that, with the exception of one kind stranger from down under, no one has responded publicly to this blog that everyone said I needed. Ha! But the thing about moaning is that if you choose wisely whom you moan to, you get just the response you need.
My friend in Munich, Thomas, came back with "Kein Schwein ruft mich an". A literal translation would be "No pig calls me" and, well yes, it is in German, but it's a hysterical lament of the lonely loser who knows he's paid his telephone bill but can't figure out why no one calls him. Thank you, Thomas! It's always good to have friends tell it to you straight!

It's got cold

So, while the rest of the world heads into Spring, here we head into Autumn and last night it got cooooold. I have to admit having the opposite seasons still weirds me out -- a bit. It isn't so much that Christmas dinner was on the barbecue -- I did grow up in Florida, after all -- or that it will be cold in June. My body, however, seems to expect the seasons to go backwards rather than to be opposite. That's to say, instead of Spring-Summer-Autumn-Winter just being shoved along 6 months, I physically expect Winter-Autumn-Summer-Spring.

Does it matter, you might ask. Well, for some things I do, like woolwork and canning, yes. Some of you will know from hurried emails saying, "I'll have to get back to you, I'm up to my elbows in plums," that I discovered canning IN A BIG WAY this year. If it stood still for too long, it got canned. My enthusiasm for canning stems not only from having enough time for the first time years to do such things, but finally a sense of I'm here for the long run, or at least long enough to get through, oh, 54 jars of tomato sauce. PLUS the fact that I will do almost anything to avoid entering Publix, Winn Dixie, Sainsbury's, Tesco's or their vile Latin American equivalent Vea.

I hadn't fully cottoned on to this canning lark until I figured out that if I grew it, made it, dried it or canned it, I didn't have to confront miles and miles of neon-lit, wasteful superabundance to agonise over which one of a dozen brands to buy of peaches, or figs, or olives, or plum jam, say, at more than twice the price, with who-knows-what kind of added ingredients, in throwaway packaging. Obvious to some, a revolution to me. Though my grandmother in Germany did this every year, and there was a cellarful of produce whenever we went to visit. But that's another discussion about just how much historic knowledge we lose every time we gain new ways of doing things....

Returning to the seasons... having arrived just as Springtime arrived, and then physically expecting Winter, rather than Summer, I didn't get my head around harvesting and canning until very late in the season. And, at the same time, I didn't happen upon the llamas until relatively late in the summer (February) so I was doing a Autumn/Winter task of spinning at the end of Summer when I realised that if I didn't stop spinning, I wasn't going to get any canning done. Aaaaargh. Confused? I was!

So, with a lot of help from my friend Isabel, who is the Queen of all things Canned, I've now got a few shelves of jam and fruit and sauces and one rather inspired glass of figs and almonds in rum (from an Italian recipe I found online) which will, it seems, be just perfect for my birthday in late April, when it will be cool, rather than balmy (go figure!) and we'll be in Valle Grande.

I'll post again soon, but as I have two translations due and should pack up the rest of my things in anticipation of the move to Valle Grande, I'd better get going!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Valle Grande - April's Adventure

Saturday afternoon we went out to Valle Grande to see the house that's been offered as a house sit, so here it is....

It's about an hour out of town by car, though I'm a bike rider wherever and whenever possible and don't own a car. The bus goes three times a day and that seems plenty

There are trees at the back of the house, thank goodness, because there are almost none at the front, and that looming figure to the right of the photo is, indeed, rock face. But the best part has to be the view when you step outdoors.

The fence is at the top of a sheer drop down to a lake and around to the right, outside of this photo, is a huge, no, HUGE dam, which scares the begeebers out of me, but I'll just have to try to ignore it.

It's very much big country. Arizona-like, arid, tough land. Condors. Quiet. There are neighbours, but the tourist season will be over at Easter, so less hubbub every day as the madding crowd goes elsewhere.

The loom, the laptop, a current essay I've been turning over in my mind on some poems by Borges are coming with me. And I'm responsible for watering the grounds -- apparently a daily task of 5 hours, mainly opening and closing valves every so often before it gets too hot in the day or late in the evening. That seems like enough for one month.

Bats swooped down on us in the evening when it got so dark we could hardly see each other. Saturday was moonless, but with a moon, it should be even more spectacular.

State of Grace

For a certain, writer-rescuing Grace

A Vision: 15

In heaven a wheel of fire circled,
round each soul gold spun aflame
adding a lick, a glance, a sparkle,
to the pyre’s common (re)claim.

Souls were flung far, souls returned,
each dying a birth renamed
adding, a little aghast, a startle
to the choir’s holy remain.

I heard as endless twisting resounded,
while flame-kissed flame voice regained
adding aloud a gasp, a chuckle
to the wire’s golden complain.

Into the braid I would have re-entered,
through my birth one death retained
adding at least this gilded shuttle
to the fire’s purer acclaim.

Yet no beginning, no end I encountered
as flame touched soul then flamed again
adding a link, each gleam with subtle
tone denial helped enchain.

So unstill my ardent soul has waited
for simple spark to burst into flame,
taken at last, agape and unsettled
into the higher Gold’s exclaim!