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Sunday, 26 April 2009

CANFRANC PART TWO

On our arrival we went straight for something to eat and for a small village there were many restaurants to choose from. I am like a dowsing rod when it comes to choosing a good place to eat and made the right choice after speculating on all of them. Henderson relies on this method especially after a disastrous meal in Jaca sometime ago when I told him I could feel the chef's bad vibes emanating from the kitchen and we went on to have one of the worst meals on record. The eatery of choice was called Universo and we sat outside with a vermouth and ate well in the sun. I warned Henderson he would end up in his usual state if he didn't don a cap. He always ignores me and then wonders why even his students lay a concerned hand on his arm and ask him if he is ill. The heat was too much for me and I wrapped my scarf around my bonce which made me look like a cross between Princess Margaret and Leila Khaled Said but maybe I am pushing it a bit.

If you ever go to Canfranc and need a bit of a siesta which I can't do without, and it is warm enough just go next door to this restaurant and you will find El Rincon de los Forestales which is a small park with a couple of benches. If you don't want to look like a tramp or drug addict by lying down on the benches then the incline of the park provides a perfect resting place to have a few winks. The view too is fantastic while you are lying down staring up at the snow covered mountains and contemplating on whether you have the strength to go up there or just admire it from below.

Henderson chose the tramp method and decided to lie down on the bench at the top of the park. Later he came down and asked me 'where are we?' to which I replied 'in the middle of the mountains' . He then asked me what I thought might lie at the top of the park that might seem out of place. This sparked off one of those annoying 'I don't know', 'just guess' scenarios and after reeling off such ideas as 'I don't know, a Sex Pistols memorial, a poster for the last James Last concert or a tribute to all things Nigerian' I went up to have a butcher's only to find a huge rusting anchor wedged in the ground. Things like this bother me and it was too late to go to the info point and demand how and why it got there. Next to it was a drinking fountain and always tempted to take advantage of these things I turned it on only to be greeted by the most furious torrent of water one could wish for on such a hot day. I waited to see if it would turn off as it was one of those taps which you push in and then normally it pushes itself out again after a few seconds or minutes. I suddenly felt I had become Inspector Clouseau or one half of Laurel and Hardy, as the tap if anything started to gush water faster than before. I waited some more and then went to tell Henderson who contrary to the normal reaction of wanting to fix things, told me to relax and continued to look at the fine views. I began to realise that he was suffering from heat stroke which much to my dismay would persist for the rest of the excursion. I waited some more and could still hear the water and went up mainly fascinated but also a tad guilty that the village which had been used to fires was now about to be flooded. The water by now was overflowing the small font and running down to street level. Part of me felt OK, that this is Spain where nothing works and no one cares but I also wanted to turn the bloody thing off and felt totally impeded. It became clear why the anchor was there. To stop this Pyrenean mountain village from floating away.

All this just made my dowsing rod pick up and leave and start heading in the opposite direction. We made it to a walk behind the station called El Paseo de los Melancolicos which seemed rather fitting as by now Henderson was acting in a dreamy, wistful way and I was more than my pensive, hypochondriacal self. This walk was lovely if you ignored the silos next to the railway sidings. At this time of year the walks are still limited on account of the snow but you can still go up to a little place called La Casita Blanca. The walk made us determined to return and explore the many other paths in and around the station.

To Be Continued...........

CANFRANC PART ONE


So the trip up to Canfranc was fulfilled at last and was worth it as one of the best days out so far. As my hobbies include dining out and going out in general. my first thoughts for the day apart from tea usually involve some plan to get out of the house. I think it is my gypsy blood that requires me to be out there and often bringing bits of it home in the form of stones, shells and memories. The train journey starts here in Huesca and involves a tiny train called I believe The Canfranero. I love train journeys and often feel close to my fellow passengers although I will never see them again. I love watching the train driver and the ticket inspector going about their daily duties and here on this route watching them stop every now and then to have a fag or wait a bit so as not to arrive too early. I gave them nicknames, the driver was Hunter as he had a certain louche appeal like Hunter S. Thompson and the inspector was christened Snatch as he looked like an actor in a film of the same name.

On the way up there were several men keen for us all to know they had climbed the mountains of the world including Ben Nevis which made me wonder whether there had ever been a gag about going up Ben Nevis but it seems too obvious. Sadly, they didn't arouse my feelings of camaraderie I held for the rest of the passengers.I often meet these climber types and get embroiled in a conversation I'd rather not be in and this time without thinking managed to end it just in time to see the Mallos de Riglos come into view, a wonderful set of red and orange rock formations that these guys had climbed of course. I succeeded in killing the conversation by innocently admitting that I could never climb these things to which one of the guys asked why in that way that people who have achieved such feats can not understand. "I suffer from vertigo' was my reply and the man just looked at me in horror and immediately didn't want to know which delighted me as he almost killed my gusto for looking out of the window. I have to add that once I mentioned my vertigo dilemma to a friend and when she asked, concerned, when it happened I told her, "every time I stand up'.

We couldn't have picked a finer day and the sun was splitting the stones and the sky so blue and I was in my element as we went through villages with such romantic names like Santa Maria Y La Pena which I will have to dedicate another day writing about. Also Caldearenas, Placencia del Monte and Castiello. If there wasn't anyone at some of these staions and there had been no request from the passengers to stop the train just trundled through. We passed over old bridges and at one point some girls run along the track shouting for the train to stop for them which it did and I got the sense I had gone back in time and the whole journey felt like that to be honest and time didn't mean anything to me.

Our destination Canfranc means 'Field of foreigners' and has the most interesting history and I don't know where to begin. It holds such a fascination for me and is one of my favourite places for the feeling it induces. The station looks like the Eiffel Tower fell over or someone designed and built it in France and placed it in between the mountains just for the hell of it. If the info is correct then work started in 1888 with the inaugaration of the station finally happening in 1928 attended by The King of Spain and the French President. From then on it seems the whole project was doomed with The Depression, a terrible fire in the station and then the Spanish Civil War when soldiers sealed up the tunnel to stop people from entering from France. Then in 1944 there was another fire in the village destroying most of the homes. Finally an accident in 1970 involving a train on the French side led to the tunnel and link to France being closed. Since then it appears to be a bone of contention as The French or rather the government there don't feel too keen to have it opened again even though we are all being encouraged to use public transport.

You can walk up to the entrance of the old tunnel but you are not allowed to enter which makes it all the more mysterious. It says something in Spanish about demolitions and the need to wear a hard hat but inside there is a laboratory which appeals to me and which I want to go in if I get permission from The University of Zaragoza who play a part in the experiments which go on inside the mountain which is reached by the old tunnel. Here is The Canfranc Astroparticle Underground Laboratory which looks for dark matter and searches for other great sounding things like Galactic WIMPS and maybe MACHOS. I have asked people about this laboratory which is no secret and often get perplexed looks as loads of people here don't know about its existence. I now wonder if it is because of this place that the tunnel and route into France and beyond will never be re-opened. It just fuels my desire to know more about this place.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

THE DEAD AROSE AND APPEARED TO MANY

There really is no excuse for not writing and if I can't drag myself out of bed tomorrow and go on a much looked forward to trip up to Canfranc by train then I will spend the day writing out all those scraps of paper that seem to litter the flat. Much looked forward to journey will I hope take place on a train whizzing or gliding through the Pyrenees to the final destination, a station that looks like it was designed in Paris at the turn of the last century and dropped down by mistake between the mountains. They say a scene from Doctor Zhivago was filmed there and the last time I went it was full of ghosts with all the signs in French and Spanish and a feeling of lost hope. Yet it would be a dream come true to see this station have the tunnel nearby re-opened so we could head on into France and one day homeward to London.

Whilst reading the only other blog worth reading called Thoughts from Galicia I learnt that blogs get more hits if words like prostitutes and lesbians appear. I am not sure of the lesbian scene in Huesca but there are quite a few prostitutes around if anyone is interested. I do remember two of them ripping off my neighbour the 'effing bleeder' next door while his wife was away in Brazil ( who Henderson is convinced is an ex-pro as well) by running off with his money which I guess makes them 'clippers' and not really prostitutes.

There was an interesting programme on The British tele ( there I go again...using the definite article..) about 'elf and safety and how it has become a joke in Britain with all the stories about school children having to wear goggles if they play conkers etc. It was in stark comparison to the lack of pointless meddling here in Spain and only an hour after I had visited some Spanish friends to see their menagerie which ended up with a parakeet having a fright and flying into the blazing boiler in their kitchen. Said bird's head peeped over the top while we were all screaming and imagining it was being cooked and then my friend's daughter blew out the pilot light. Half an hour went by and I kept telling them perhaps they should re-light the boiler in case gas was streaming out and as their father chains smokes I was feeling slightly more anguished than normal. In the end he just laughed when I told him his home resembled something out of a Laurel and Hardy film which here in Spain are called 'El Flaco y El Gordo' The Thin One and the Fat One. As I left he added that if I get a call in a few days to hear the whole block had collapsed then I wasn't to be surprised.

Well, I will save the other story of some friends who told me about their 'first fire of the year' till Friday if I survive the dentist that day.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

ADIOS, ADIOS, ADIOS......

I'm not sure whether it is a sign of getting older, having Irish blood or maybe just living in Spain when one starts putting the definite article in front of things like 'are you on The Facebook?' I also haven't fathomed out what The Twitter is exactly or whether I need it. It seems strange to live in a small town far away from 'it all' and know you can be tracked down often by people you have absolutely nothing in common with apart from you once leant against the same bar.

Talking of bars, faces and books, while up in them there hills I met a man in a bar who claimed he had read Ulysses and enjoyed it. Few people have read this book and knowing this anyone can say they have read it with the argument that they didn't understand any of it. This bloke however claimed he loves books like this. Apart from Finnegan's Wake and anything by Becket I can't think of many writers who are required drinking, meaning you'd need to be half cut to understand any of it. Most Spanish people don't read at all so this guy was quite a find.

I'd like to think that most people go to the mountains to seek solace, chill out and get away from 'it all' but lying in bed at around two in the afternoon with Henderson insisting as usual we needed the windows open I could hear a man shouting into his mobile to someone called Hector and said man had a habit of saying everything three times a bit like the character Jimmy Two Times in The Good Fellas. There was also a weird thing going on with Hector as he didn't seem to want the conversation to end and after every 'OK Hector, speak soon, love to the family' etc there was a pause and the chat would kick off again. The hapless mate just kept giving his best with every kind of adios, goodbye, see you later he could think of along with kisses and hugs to the wife and then more hugs stronger than the ones before till I leant out of the window and told him to tell Hector to go and shaft himself but all in Spanish of course so a lot more vulgar.

Something odd happens to city folk when they head to the mountains. They feel compelled to buy walking sticks and to stare at everything as if it is the first time they have seen it. Our friend Elena told us it is even worse when they turn up to go for a horse ride. Horse riding in the way you might ride a donkey on Blackpool beach that is. Men who should know better dress up in cowboy gear and start swaggering into the bar much to the amusement of the locals.

It is a surreal feeling when you are nursing a whisky at four in the morning on Easter Friday and listening to Sympathy for the Devil and look up at a TV screen and see the famous drums of Calanda being played till the drummers' hands bleed and realise you are sitting in an old slaughterhouse that the owner decided to call The Silence of the Lambs but that is where I found myself with Basque Jon whilst planning more propaganda for our political party Fisting for Franco. More of this later.......................



Monday, 6 April 2009

OLE IN THE WALL

I suppose there shouldn't be any reason why I feel I have to write such a lengthy tome every day and perhaps it is better to keep it shorter and sweeter...........

Well, just got in from a hospital appointment that was for nine o'clock this evening. I thought maybe it was a mistake and rang earlier but they said it was OK. When we got there we had to ask several cleaners where the room was and there was another couple waiting which reassured me I hadn't stepped into some nightmarish scenario as hospitals are also on my list of bete noirs.So quite a strange experience.

Earlier I could hear Piti barking or rather howling and generally displaying his usual neurotic behaviour downstairs in the garage and I asked myself 'could it be that he is buggering off for Easter? Giving Huesca the finger?' I guess so as I caught a glimpse of Mercedes' daughter's car spinning off into the distance packed out with all the necessary family, dogs, budgies and medicines which they are going to need to survive the festivities down in Teruel.

Due to Piti's unreasonable behaviour one would think that I didn't like dogs but it couldn't be further from the truth as I am a dog lover and find myself gravitating towards having one the older I get. If I were a dog I would be a Boston Terrier with my ancestor's scrappy ways and inbred self-importance but I think I am repeating myself here. I might start describing people as though they were dogs. Stuff like ' well she's alert and kind indicating a high degree of intelligence' or 'he's devoted and well mannered but enjoys playing and chasing balls.' I thought about which dog Henderson might be but decided he was more like a clock, a trusty old timepiece.

Lastly, on the subject of clocks I have another confession. For a while, while I wasn't really paying attention so I guess I can be excused, I thought that there was a Team O' Glock in the Formula One. Of the Irish variety I speculated but it turns out to be a German going by the name Timo Glock or something like that so another image shattered.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

SAVING FOR A SPAINY DAY

So my peregrinations have brought me back here. I thought there might be a pattern but it just boils down to being otherwise engaged. A toss-up between some sort of opiate or Songs of Praise, Country File, Antique Roadshow, Joanna Lumley chasing the Northern Lights and The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency. Somewhere in between some vermouths were sunk, olives were demolished, some sun was taken and a quick vist to Our Lady of Salas. Photos were shot, kites spotted, magpies were counted and saluted, heists were planned, flowers were picked, kisses exchanged, plants were watered, neighbours avoided and unseen, one drawer tipped out and reborn for how long I can't tell. A fruitful day.

On the subject of neighbours, Piti and Mercedes seem to be doing the same as me and lying low. Not a peep. The Ecuadorians next door have been a bit sheepish of late but I did read in the paper that they or their compatriots had a punch up about nine o'clock Saturday morning on this road. Seems like an odd time to pick a fight but I am sure it involved lots of bare chests and bloodied handprints and screaming girls.

It seems the world is dividing into Chavs and people who just want to read the newspaper in peace. The recent demonstrations in London are also a rite of passage for those who in the future will want some peace or before they buy that first BMW and have a few kids. I did like the fake riot police carrier. The girl leaning up against it in defiance of the real police brought a tear to my eye as I reminisced about my own exploits at Greenham Common or the Poll Tax riots to name two. Oh, halcyon days.

Lastly, I think that most sentences or arguments at least should start with the words, " I probably don't know what I am talking about but..."