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Recharged and Almost Ready to Go!

11 Aug

Our three-month sojourn back in Brisbane, Australia, ends in one week. Trips to Melbourne and Cairns with family, and a couple of weeks spent renovating Tristan’s Toowong townhouse with Tristan and Jenny (they flew out from Scotland for this DIY project and Cam came up from Melbourne for a weekend) made the weeks go too fast.


Stuart has been working almost full-time planning ‘Gypsy Hill House Mark Three’ so it’s ready for the end of year holidays. The house will be built off site in two sections, trucked down from the Sunshine Coast and assembled on the ridge, after our 200 metres of driveway is complete. You can imagine the degrees of difficulty involved in that enterprise. I try to keep out of it but when it comes to the kitchen I can’t help myself.

Most of this time we’ve been camping at Tristan’s. And when I say camping I mean camping. His house is for sale unfurnished. We can be contacted by the agent with a few hours notice to have it ready for inspection any day, plus two open houses each Saturday. We’ve become adept at removing all traces of our habitation including mattresses on the floor. Kind friends loaned us a minifridge, others have had us to stay a couple of times (TV! Wifi!) and we escaped to Ballina for a few days so it hasn’t been a hardship. About half the planet sits, eats and sleeps on the floor, why not us?

We made a concerted effort, despite disagreements about what goes and what stays, to sort our storage unit. We got rid of a fair bit of excess by recycling, selling and giving things away. There is still far too much to furnish a two-bedroom house however I’ve been over-ruled several times. Who needs 38 china tea cups, saucers and side plates besides a tea shop?!

With Stuart immersed in planning I’ve organised most of the upcoming nine-week trip, a ‘quickie’ by our standards. There’s a dash of nostalgia plus some bucket list items and a fair chunk of family and friend catch ups. It goes something like this:

Melbourne, West Coast Scotland, London, Southampton to board the Queen Mary 2 (travelling with friends) for the Fashion Week crossing to New York, US Open Tennis Men’s Semi Finals, Flushing Meadow, Queens, Princeton, Savannah to Charleston, Chicago, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, for the Celtic Colours festival then back to London and Edinburgh before returning to Melbourne at the end of October.

 

Pretty fabulous wot?! Stuart’s on Atlantic iceberg watch, well he has to worry about something so it might as well be that!

Look, no ski boots, flamenco shoes or hiking boots, just your standard 20s flapper outfit and two other ‘formal’ outfits for the QM 2 plus reading material for my poolside deck chair lazing!

Rock Stars for a Week: North Cornwall, UK

18 Apr

April 7-14 April, 2017
Okay we weren’t actual rock stars but hear me out – we stayed in Rock, became accidental TV extras and spotted three bonafide celebrities. More on that later. So yeah, we rocked it!

Stuart’s family have been going to Cornwall since Grandmummy was a grommet, so when she had her own children – Stuart and his two siblings – they too began the annual trek to Rock for a beach holiday.


Thus the fourth generation got their first taste of Rock as were 15 adults and two babies.

Baby care necessarily limited some people’s participation, but family members still managed an awful lot and we have the Tshirt to prove it! (Designed by daughter-in-law Jenny and produced in the UK.) Cool huh?!
Our agenda:

Surfing at Polzeath

Stand Up Paddle Boarding (photo by SJT)

Coastal Walking

Colin and Paul on duty at Stepper Point Coastwatch.


Kite Flying

Frisbee

Billiards

Rounders (Photo by SE)

Cycling (The Camel Trail from Wadebridge to Bodmin is mostly flat and off road, fine for a trailer and even tandems!)

Table Tennis
Wine Tasting

Ferry Rides

Board Games (Carcassone, Articulate and Bananagram entertained our mob)

Pastie, Fish & Chips and Cream Tea Eating

Cornish Ale and Cider Drinking (Doom Bar and Rattler were the preferred tipples)

Unfortunately we didn’t get around to sailing, water skiing, wake boarding, mackerel fishing and kayaking. Next time!

If you’re looking for guaranteed family beach fun look no further.


Back to our rock star status. When we walked from Lundy Bay to Port Isaac we literally walked into a shoot for the new series, the eighth, of ‘Doc Martin’. They were shooting a scene with Joe Absolom (Al Large and Matthew Rose in Eastenders) and a new character played by Art Malik. Joe and Art walked and talked as they entered the chemist and then reappeared. We found a seat outside The Mote pub, got some drinks and watched the action. A young woman in a hi vis vest stopped foot traffic and instructed us all to act as though we weren’t watching a TV show being filmed. I still managed to sneak a photo of the actors. Should we appear in the final cut of the episode we can claim 50 quid each as our appearance fee.

Walking past Doc Martin’s house.

The other series that have boosted Cornwall’s international profile are ‘Poldark’ (the remake) and Rosamunde Pilcher’s German dramatisations of over 100 of her stories. 

The third star we saw was Gordon Ramsay. Strolling to the Rock ferry we saw Ramsay behaving completely out of character. Driving his huge, beige Range Rover he’d had to slow to pass a car that had stopped to let him pass. We witnessed his smile and cheery wave of thanks to the other driver. Apparently he has a couple of properties at Rock and is seen regularly. Not so Rick Stein. Two of our party dined at his seafood restaurant, imaginatively called The Seafood Restaurant, in Padstow across the Camel River estuary. Zero sightings of Rick.Rock’s Blue Tomato Cafe has the friendliest staff and best coffee.

All in all a highly successful family holiday continuing a tradition we hope persists for many generations to come.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Getting to Rock:
Ditch the long drive and fly into Newquay just forty minutes from Rock. We flew Flybe from Gatwick. They have the usual baggage allowance and good value fares.

 

We rented a small car from Europcar. Pick the smallest car you feel comfortable driving as the lanes are narrow and parking spaces minute.

 

Staying:

We rented through John Bray, the longest standing holiday accommodation agency.

Eating and Drinking:

My preferred supermarket delivery is through Tesco as they’ve been great thus far. Online ordering is easy and you can pick your delivery hour.We cooked meals at home but we did have one group dinner at the St Enodoc Hotel where we were thoroughly spoiled. Check out their vegan menu and my two dishes. Outstanding food and service, great views and a full-sized billiard table! 

 

Up Hill and Down Dale: Yorkshire and Northumberland

30 Dec

Choosing children’s names is best undertaken with due care and concern for their future. That’s why we named our second son after a character in a TV series.

We couldn’t agree on a first name from the baby book we used to name our firstborn, Cameron, however we could agree on Tristan, the name of the feckless but loveable young trainee vet in ‘All Creatures Great and Small’.

The series, based on the best-selling book, is set in the glorious Yorkshire Dales. Each episode found us glued to the small screen as Siegfried and Tristan Farnan, and James Heriott tore along impossibly narrow dry stone walled lanes up hill and down dale at high speed to deliver calves, stop foot and mouth disease and treat ‘flop bot’.

Thirty years later we’ve finally visited the Yorkshire Dales (an attempt in the 70s was aborted when Stuart ate toxic mussells) to tramp through snowy fields and sup local ales in front of crackling fires. As luck would have it we drove up from Cambridge during the post-Xmas 2014 big freeze. We missed the blizzard but passed abandoned cars along the highway.

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With the benefit of local knowledge for trip planning, courtesy of friends from our California days, Linda and Colin who live in Yorkshire, we stayed two nights at The Cow and Calf Hotel, tucked into Ilkley Moor.

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On our first morning we woke to bright blue skies and freezing conditions, snow still crunchy underfoot. Perfect conditions to hike up to the Cow and Calf Rocks and on to the crest of the moor passed by fell runners and their dogs.

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With Linda and Colin as our guides we went on to Bolton Priory (established 1154) to stroll the National Trust grounds and visit the active, small, stone priory church with its wall paintings by Thomas Bottomley.

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I’m deep into the Shardlake series by CJ Sansom on the recommendation of my well-read friend Anne. This series of historical crime fiction opens during the dissolution of the priories and monasteries by Henry VIII. It’s especially interesting if, like me, you’ve read Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell books. I walked through the ruins and graveyard imagining it both in its prime, as an Augustinian centre of worship and wealth, and during its destruction, as the building was stripped of precious lead, the canons pensioned off and the Priory’s servants cast out to their own devices.

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With Linda and Colin at The Priory

Lunch in The Snug of The Fleece in Addingham introduced us to the largest Yorkshire pudding I’ve ever seen, as well as delicious Copper Kettle and Black Sheep beer.

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A Yorkshireman and some of his favourite things.

Next day was similarly bright and even colder. A quick stop in Harrogate provided a coffee stop at the Rasmus cafe and design centre, followed by a peek at the Debenham’s sale. A sharply discounted Ted Baker dressing gown in the style of Obi Wan Kenobi will become our communal cosy garment in Tristan and Jenny’s Edinburgh apartment.

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A borrowed scraper!

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A cold Cupid and Psyche in central Harrogate.

The goal for our final day with the rental car was to drive to and walk in Nidderdale, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We warmed up with leek and potato soup at the cosy Sportsman’s Arms at Wath-In-Nidderdale, before heading uphill across farmers’ fields for a ninety minute loop walk. As we walked we could hear the boom of guns in the distance. Not a good day to be a pheasant.

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The afternoon’s destination, Masham, had to be abandoned as the tyres on our rented Seat failed to grip on a more or less deserted snow and ice covered road. The view from the highest point we could reach showed white hills as far as the eye could see.

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We spent our third night in northern England in the Northumberland town of Wooler, an old mill town at the base of the Cheviot Hills, a popular walkers’ area. The No1 Hotel and Wine Lounge is interesting in a slightly Fawlty Towers way. Our bedroom had a freestanding tub, rhinestone encrusted bed cushions and a collection of dried branches suspended from the ceiling entwined with small white lights. Stuart said he felt like he was sleeping in a scene from ‘Day of the Triffids’.

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On the advice of two local men I accosted in the street early next morning, we drove up to Wooler Common carpark which now doubles as a skating rink, to walk part of St Cuthbert’s Way. St Cuthbert (c. 634 – 20 March 687) was a monk, missionary, bishop and hermit during the early Northumbrian Celtic church formation and is regarded as the patron saint of Northern England.

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Once again I was reminded of how hardy medieval folk were (and how soft I am) as we hiked uphill through mud and snow with the wind whistling across the moor. Oddly the gorse was flowering.

We heartily enjoyed our stopovers en route to Edinburgh and have added The Dales Way, a 78 mile walk, http://www.dalesway.org/route.html to our list of future adventures.

From Wooler to Edinburgh was an uncomplicated drive via Coldstream where we saluted the first of the Scottish flags flying proudly in a stiff breeze.

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Thirty four years ago this weekend…..

23 Dec

By Stuart Elliott

We were married whilst I was living in Northern France and my glowing bride was living in Manchester, England. We’ve had many periods in our lives when we haven’t been in the same place at the same time, but fortunately this weekend we managed to get it together for our anniversary in a wintry, but as always, atmospheric Paris.

Our escape from Morzine in the snow-free zone of the Alps via Geneva was relaxing. For a mere 30 Euro supplement we travelled First Class TGV with free champagne. Having a son nicknamed Stinge, you can probably imagine I am not given to extravagance, but this really is the only way to travel in Europe, even encumbered by four months’ worth of outdoor adventure gear including skis and boots.

Sharon had researched the good vegan restaurants of Paris (doesn’t sound right does it?) and found the highly acclaimed Le Potager du Maurais. The place was, shall we say intimate. If you couldn’t quite hear the people at the next table breathing you could certainly feel them. Having sorted out the Mauritian owner’s error in the booking, we had an unexciting gastronomically speaking meal. Sadly Sharon had the flu and couldn’t taste anything anyway.

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Taxis in Paris are a mystery. You can’t hail them in the street, you have to walk to a taxi stop (in which case why wouldn’t you just take the bus?). Then if you want to travel in solitary splendour in the back seat you have to be a bit careful that the taxi doesn’t already contain other passengers. We learnt this to our surprise, and possibly that of the other passenger, when we opened the door of a taxi with a green light that stopped in front of us whilst we dutifully waited at the taxi stop. Perhaps green lights on Parisian taxis mean something different from other cities.

Serendipity took us past the Opera Bastille on our return to the very well priced and comfortable Novotel Gare de Lyon. A few minutas later we had matinee tickets to ‘La Boheme’. The Internet – I love it and hate it.

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Sunday morning saw us up, more dull than bright and early at the markets. What amazingly fresh produce and in the centre of the city. Enough to make one dream of returning just to rent an apartment and cook. The fish and shell fish stands are tantalisingly presented and a far cry from the frozen stuff they sell out of a van at the Brisbane markets. But there’s only so much staring at dead fish and animals a vegan can stomach so it was off to sample the local coffee and croissant. We discovered a cute little cafe with decor from the fifties with service to match, as in gruff but eventually friendly and helpful.

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Despite the help of our waiter, some two hours later we ended up 200 meters from where we started. We downed some mulled wine to thaw us out and slowly made our way back to Le Marche, a cosy restaurant we’d spotted during our ramblings. It’s amazing how good one solitary coquille St Jacques can taste when it’s plump and juicy and nestled In a bed of finely chopped and simmered Pernod-flavoured leeks. This of course was followed by something disgustingly meaty swimming in Calvados and cream for me and the chef’s best vegan offering for Sharon.

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Then it was off to ‘La Boheme’. Being largely a philistine, normally I go to the opera to hear the arias, however I loved this performance from start to finish. The lead male, Italian tenor, Vittorio Grigolo, was superb.

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Sadly Sharon’s flu took a turn for the worse during the second act so there was nothing romantic about the rest of our tale. Now it’s off to the Gare du Nord for the train to London to start the festive season with friends and family.

Bonne fete!

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Post Script by Sharon:
I wish to elaborate that ‘a turn for the worse’ means I suffered a paroxysm of coughing that made Mimi’s tuberculer cough sound pathetic by comparison. Stifling it nearly killed me. A glass of champagne at interval sadly didn’t help so I stood at the rear of the theatre for the third act in case I needed to step out quickly.

Unfortunately the fever came back with a vengeance and I found myself shaking uncontrollably. A hurried visit to the cloakroom to don ski jacket, beanie and gloves made no difference. I ended up watching the final act on the bar monitor with staff giving me a very wide berth as I alternately coughed and shivered. Thankfully Parisian pharmacies keep reasonable hours and Stuart was able to fill the antibiotic prescription the Morzine doctor had given me for just such a development, along with more elephant strength paracetamol. Forty eight hours later I am feeling human again but still have zero sense of smell. Food is entirely unappealing.

I must also commend the Novotel Gare de Lyon. When booking I’d noted in the comment box that we’d be celebrating our wedding anniversary with them. I had no great expectation they’d do anything special as they must get ‘anniversary’ bookings all the time. Much to our delight our check-in receptionist greeted us with ‘Bonne Anniversaire’ and when we got to our room we found our bed covered in rose petals outlining a heart and ‘Love’ plus a box of chocolates and a handwritten card. Nicely done.

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Morzine, Haute Savoie, France: The Heart of the Portes du Soleil

20 Dec

Slim Dusty sang, ‘There’s nothing so lonesome, morbid or drear, than to stand in the bar of a pub with no beer’, but Slim never experienced a French ski resort with no snow the week before Xmas.

To make matters worse, it’s been raining here in Morzine (altitude 850metres). The little snow there is on the uppermost slopes is washing away. Attempts to make snow have failed and skiers who haven’t cancelled their trips are catching buses to Avoriaz where just two lifts are open. Quelle horreur!

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Every cloud has a silver lining and ours has been enjoying mountain walks and the excellent food on offer in Morzine village. Like Meribel, Morzine is a favourite of the Brits, it’s only one and a half hours by car from Geneva to Morzine. Many of them own chalets, hotels, restaurants and bars, even a microbrewery. Others supplement the local tradespeople and the best massage I’ve had recently was delivered by Becky from Wiltshire.

British owned cafes/restaurants provide welcome variety on the traditional Savoyard fare with its heavy emphasis on tartiflette, lardons, fondue and saucissons.

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Special mention for the following Morzine eating establishments for their vegan-friendly options:

– Best soup award goes to Dottie’s Cafe for their broccoli, lemon and tahini soup.
– Best main course goes to Bec Jaune microbrewery and restaurant for their ‘chickpea tofu’ Glory Bowl’.

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– Best attempt to make a vegan entree when there was nothing on the menu goes to La Grange who produced a technicolour plate of heirloom vegetables with a side of roast potato wedges.

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– And best customer service goes to the staff of our three star bed and breakfast Hotel Samoyede who provided me with avocado, tomato and olive oil each morning with a big smile. The soya milk I brought myself but they would have provided if asked!

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I was only able to accompany Stuart on one walk, a gorgeous four-hour round trip trek to the Gold Mine Lake via a waterfall.

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We were surprised on the descent by a motorless trike rider hooning by, closely followed by the van that had taken him up to the lake. Looked like dangerous fun but hey, if there’s no snow what’s an adrenaline addict to do?

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Unfortunately the sniffle I left Australia with developed into raging influenza that laid me low for three days. A trip to France wouldn’t be complete without at least one of us gracing the local GP’s office and it was my turn on this occasion. Ninety minutes of lying on the wooden bench in the doctor’s waiting room to obtain a prescription for drugs to treat my flu symptoms gave me ample opportunity to observe the staff at work.

As previously observed in French medical settings, the auxilliary staff are much more concerned about their colleagues than they are about patients. I overheard a conversation in English between one of the three receptionists and someone in a chalet who was calling on behalf of a British female guest who had fallen, hit her head, and now had trouble moving. The caller asked if a doctor could make a house call. The response was, in perfect English, that if the woman could walk she should be brought to the clinic and one of the two doctors on duty would see her in turn. There was no sense of urgency or concern in the receptionist’s words or tone of voice. And no suggestion that an ambulance might be in order.

Sick as I was it took a lot of self control not to get up and rip the phone from her hands and counsel the poor sod on the other end of the line.

Clearly the notions of triage and compassion have not reached the Morzine medical clinic.

Now we’re on our way to Paris by train to celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary in the City of Lights and Lovers. Yes, even old farts can be romantic sometimes!

Here are a few more faces of Morzine. I’d like to return one summer to walk and mountain bike.

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Post Script by Stuart:
Strangers can be wonderful. On learning that I was skiing on my own (when I should have been attending to Sharon whilst she lay on her death bed), a group of Irish and Americans changed their plans to eat down the valley and joined me at a mid-mountain cafe so that I wouldn’t eat alone. I then learnt that I had been skiing in the same place and at the same time as the American some 40 years ago at the little-known resort of Chamrousse. Much reminiscing ensued to the dismay of the youngsters. They then insisted on accompanying me to the bottom of the run.

Leaving Brisbane again

10 Dec

Another mango season is upon us and once again we’re homeless by choice. Sitting on the verandah floor of our empty Brisbane house I contemplate the fact that in four days time it will be someone else’s home. We lived here only 16 months but I quickly fell in love with Newmarket-Wilston’s lovely hilly neighbourhood with its grand old houses and abundant trees. And how lucky we were in having top neighbours. Couldn’t have asked for better people.

No regrets though, we’re forging ahead with the Broken Head building project and hope to have somewhere to call home in 2016 www.brokenhead360.wordpress.com

Yesterday was a huge day of moving the house contents (all carefully packed by me) to a long term storage unit and to Stuart’s factory. We also sold our 150cc scooter back to the store we bought it from. Stuart had one last play on it to get it into the truck.

We thanked our lucky stars a threatened storm held off. Last week houses had their roofs blown off in an afternoon mini cyclone.

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Today we fly to Melbourne to see family before continuing on to France for some fun in the snow and to celebrate our anniversary in Paris. Christmas will be spent with Stuart’s sister Catharine and family in London followed by Boxing Day in Cambridge with son Tristan and his partner Jenny’s family. We then continue on up to Edinburgh to rejoin Tristan and Jenny to ring in the New Year with a Hogmanay concert in the Edinburgh Gardens.

The rest of our 14 weeks travel takes us to the Canary Islands for walking and sailing, more skiing with friends, flamenco in Madrid and Jerez (eight Brisbane flamencas will be taking Jerez by storm) and a return to Little Cove Yoga Retreat, slit of Goa, this time with Stuart in tow. Yes, the man who once ran a mile from yoga is willingly participating in a week-long yoga retreat!

We wrap up with a week in Kerala before flying home. All in all an exciting time ahead.

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Happy holidays!

Back to Seville and Learning to Dance Drunk

25 Sep

I was mistaken for a dancer. It happened while buying a ticket for a flamenco show. The woman behind me in line asked if I was a dancer. I was so shocked I couldn’t respond for a moment. When I did I conceded that yes, it was possible that I met the definition of a dancer since I took classes. She said she assumed I was a dancer because I was so graceful. Wow, I never considered strangers might see me like that. Funny how one chance comment like that can lift one’s spirits.

My second floor apartment this week in Seville was promoted for its ‘dreamy views of the Alcazar’ from the balcony. It also comes with mosquitoes, five lanes of traffic noise and flamenco minstrels serenading diners at the tapas bar and restaurant downstairs. I’m not complaining though, it has other benefits such as a washing machine, bath, good wifi and plenty of room to spread out – all luxuries after two weeks at sea. At lunch time I can take my fifteen minutes of Vitamin D therapy on the balcony in my bra and knickers safe in the knowledge that 99 out of a hundred people never look up.IMG_6986.JPGIMG_6952.JPG
Coincidentally the restaurant below is where I lunched with Vanessa P last time I was here. She introduced me to delicious Franciacorta sparkling wine from Lombardy. ¡Salud Vanessa!

For this, the last week of a five week sojourn, we’ve both gone to our happy place – separately. Stuart is in the Swiss and Italian Alps with friend Alastair riding rented motorcycles. He skyped me tonight to say they’d been over a mountain pass in 0.5 degrees centigrade and were having to share a double bed tonight. I think I have the better deal. I’m in Santa Cruz, Seville, overdosing on flamenco classes and shows. It’s La Bienal all this month and the city is heaving with tourists and flamencos. On every street corner one or more tourists stand looking bemusedly at a city map or begging directions off passers by. The good citizen award today goes to the driver of a street sweeper machine stopped at the lights helping a Japanese woman, although he was nearly eclipsed by a girl student with purple hair and a nose ring assisting an elderly French couple outside the university.

And I nearly wet myself laughing at the Korean group disgorged by their tour bus onto the banks of the Guadalquivir. They rushed down to take their group photo in front of the palm trees. One woman produced a long stick and attached it to her mobile phone so she could take full sized multiple selfies of her group!

I’m following a fairly demanding routine this week given I haven’t danced for six weeks. Each morning I take an hourlong bulerias class with Pilar Ogalla at Escuela Manuel Betanzos (substituting for her husband, Andres Peña who is performing at a festival in Calgary) and each afternoon two hours of bulerias class with Juan Paredes in La Macarena. Overall I walk at least two hours a day and think longingly of the bicycle I sold to Miguel Perez.

Again I have to thank Vanessa P who introduced me to Juan last time I was here. I’d had my fingers crossed since that I’d be able to fit into his class. Juan is an ebullient, dynamic teacher, a true ambassador for bulerias. I feel I have the best of both worlds, the feminine style of Pili with her wonderful singing, plus Juan’s almost manic energy and unerring compas. More on that later.

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As for Seville, there are a few changes, one in particular is most welcome. This sign has appeared and it seems to be working! Not so much dog pooh dodging required as I pound the streets.

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The council is working on repairing drainage in the old centre and rubbish bins have been upgraded with better separation of plastic, glass, cans, cardboard, and general waste. Oh, and Señor Moreno at Bar Vargas has a new pair of yellow pants! I alternate between his bar and Triana Market cafe for breakfast. One morning I coincided with Maestro Manolo Marin taking coffee at Bar Vargas. For the first time we chatted briefly completely in Spanish (he is trilingual) and I was able to ask if I might be allowed to pay for his coffee. He agreed. However, lest I get over confident there’s always someone ready to bring me back to earth. One of the market stall holders in particular is on a quest to improve my Spanish. He listens hard and corrects any faults when I make requests and won’t allow me to move on to the next purchase until I have perfected each one. I don’t mind, he throws free bunches of coriander and parsley into my basket.

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My only disappointment has been that I assumed I’d be able to get tickets to most Bienal shows and almost all have sold out. I even ran to the 11:45pm Hotel Triana show straight off the plane the night I arrived expecting to pick up a ticket at the door but left disappointed. I consoled myself with beer and tapas at a table on the footpath of T de Triana watching the passing Saturday night parade.

Walking along Calle Betis towards the centre I passed a dishevelled, slightly drunk, pencil thin bride arguing with her new husband who was dressed in the Spanish version of morning suit. Her gorgeous, heavy silk ivory gown had been dragging down the street and was now filthy at the hem. As I passed I congratulated her but she could barely raise a smile in return. Oh dear…..

Flocks of garrulous teenaged female students wearing miniscule skirts or shorts with five inch high heels streamed towards a night club with four beefy, tattooed men on the door. Not sure which terrified me more. More heartwarming was the father and son duo roller blading on the tramway. The son must have been about ten years old and I could see by their smiles they were having a great night. In Australia that kid would have been in bed at least two hours already.

I promised more about my teachers. Pili uses a similar teaching method to Andres, i.e. starting with compas (clapping in bulerias rhythm) and marking with the feet, then breaking down a remate (closing step) combo that we then insert in the correct spot as she sings. We’ve learned a remate a day which we combine with a llamada and filling steps either correctly or incorrectly according to how she sings and how proficient we are. My strike rate so far is about 70%. I am happy with that.

Juan on the hand teaches a new ‘pataita’ (collection of small steps) each night. He creates it in the first hour class then repeats it in the second. About fifty per cent of students take both classes. This works well for me because if I don’t nail it in the first hour I have a chance in the second and every night is something totally different (good for my gold fish brain).

Everyone is encouraged to dance the pataita solo in the circle each class, as you would in a fin de fiesta. So far I have stepped up to the challenge each night. When my nerve started to fail me last night Juan leaned in and said, ‘Just listen to the bulerias compas, don’t think about the steps’. He is right. It doesn’t matter if you don’t replicate the steps exactly as long as you stay in time and place the emphasis where the remate rhythm demands it.

Tonight he created a cool little routine, describing it as something one would dance drunk at 5am. Except you could only do it successfully if you are most parts sober. I’ve seen Manuel Betanzos and Joaquin Grilo dance something like it before but to see Juan’s creative process with his myriad variations was brilliant. In bulerias it’s the element of surprise that brings joy to the spectators.

Tonight I had an insight that felt profound and explains why I am drawn to bulerias. You can’t fake it and that means you must take risks. I’ve watched many young, attractive dancers glued to their reflections in the mirror as they drill their intricate steps. Tonight I noticed another one. She danced her prepared choreography for herself and within herself. That can work for a Farucca or Seguiriya but it doesn’t work for bulerias. It leaves the viewer cold and unsatisfied. What it taught me is that from now on I will concern myself less with making movements look pretty or ‘right’ and more with relaxing into the music and trusting myself to know when to come in and where the accents need to be. And if I look drunk doing it so much the better!

And so to the return home on Saturday. Our timing is good, there are family health issues on the horizon and a house to sell. Wish us ¡Mucha mierda! we will need it.

I leave you with a few more glimpses of Seville, a city I never tire of.

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The first time I have had Fatima’s hand protecting my door.

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Museo del Baile Flamenco show by Juan Polvillo and Ursula Moreno (dance), Chieto singing and Antonio Andrade on guitar.

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I was the sixth person to join this new Andalucian cultural organisation, I hope it is a great success – it is so easy to do nothing, effort should be rewarded!

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Stills from the Casa de la Memoria show by Marta Arias and Juan Carlos Cardoso dancing, Javier Rivera singing and Manuel de la Luz playing guitar.

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