Sinigang, Rubber Gloves & FAB Detergent
Saturday, August 26, 2006
My uncle Luís Miranda was born in the Philippines. He was the first cousin of my grandfather Tirso de Irureta Goyena. Before WWII he pioneered the production of Coca Cola in Manila, perfected Magnolia Ice Cream and invented such flavours as macupunó which is made from a very special coconut and Pinipig Crunch (a pre Nestle crunch type ice cream made from immature glutenous rice). Best of all he made sure that every bottle of San Miguel Beer was the best that could be had. He was prosperous and had a sprawling house designed by his architect brother Antonio Miranda. He had a beautiful wife, Fermina, who cooked with a perfection I have not ever seen matched.
When the Japanese landed in Manila, Luís made sure his beer would not be readily available to the Japanese. Perhaps the invaders found out of Luís's late night tinkering at the beer plant, because they commandeered the Miranda house as their headquarters. After the war the Miranda family managed to make it to Buenos Aires where Tio Luis again worked for Coca Cola. That's when I first met my Tía Fermina. I was 8 which is precisely the age of Rebecca seen here with Tía Fermina who is 94. On our way back from Morelia we stopped so that Rebecca could meet her.
I have always hated cake. But I was never ever able to turn down Tía Fermina's magnificent angel food cakes or her Spanish ensaymadas. I learned to enjoy her Filipino cooking. Even her white rice was better than any I have ever had. The only Argentine style pizza to be had in Mexico City was hers. When I married Rosemary 39 years ago in Mexico, Tía Fermina (who had also moved to Mexico from Buenos Aires) lent us her old white Peugeot 403. Only she could love a car with a hidden fourth gear (I drove it for a week in third) and with door buttons that had to be pulled up to lock. We often visited the Mirandas at their house on Miguel Cervantes Saavedra. My Tío Luís would nag Rosemary into eating more. I never had to be nagged. Many of our family, and the Filipino community in Mexico made it a habit of going to the Miranda's for weekend lunches or dinners. Tía Fermina would set many tables in her large dining room and living room with extra ones in her patio garden. Various generations of children experienced the delight and honour of stepping up from the little children's tables to finally making it to the head table. Christmas was never Christmas until one saw the tree decorated by Tía Fermina's eldest daughter, Carmencita or tried the cookies made by the youngest, Rosario. In a short time my favourite aunt became Rosemary's favourite aunt.
At 94 Tía Fermina is all energy, memory, wit and her appetite for sweets has not diminished. She presides over her great grand children, admonishing them gently with her beautiful Spanish or switching into her accented Filipino Spanglish that even Rosemary has learned to speak.
While in Houston for a day, we had the privilege of having sinigang, a Filipino soup and a dessert, both made by the supreme cook. I will never forget her in Mexico washing her vegetables with FAB detergent while wearing her rubber gloves. That Rebecca will some day be able to re-tell these events gives me a joy to be alive and to wish my Tía Fermina many more years.
I am only sad that Rebecca sat at the head table and will never experience those wonderful days of table hopping at Miguel Cervantes Saavedra
Un Inglesito En Coghlan
Friday, August 25, 2006
Desde Vancouver, British Columbia, de vez en cuando leo mi vieja edición Tor del Corazón
de Edmundo de Amicis. Me recuerda de mi niñez en Buenos Aires y del misterioso Manrique que cargaba una 45 en el sobaco. Era amigo de mi papá y nunca supe si Manrique era su apellido o su nombre propio. Un día me regaló el libro.
Desde el 1949 (cuando tenía 7 años) hasta el 1954 viví en Coghlan. Mis amigos del American Grammar School sobre la calle Freire, a unas dos cuadras de la estación de Belgrano R, no lo sabían. Cuando me preguntaban donde vivía les decía que en Belgrano. Como mi mamá, Filomena enseñaba física y química en el American High School, también sobre Freire, yo no pagaba por el privilegio de ir a un colegio privado. Me avergonzaba admitir que vivía en un barrio que mis compañeros de San Isidro o Acassuso, no sospechaban que existiera. Me avergonzaba vestir pantalones argentinos, imitación Levis. Mis compañeros, cuyos padres trabajaban para la General Motors, la Lincoln Library y demás agencias del departamento de estado de los EEUU, lucían auténticos Levis. Me regalaban chicle Double Bubble o Bazooka, con los cuales aprendí a soplar enormes globos que se me pegoteaban al pelo cuando explotaban. La industria argentina, la del Pulqui 1 y el Pulqui 2 aún no había descubierto la fórmula de los Levis y del chicle de globito. Yo quería ser un conboy como Gene Autrey.
Mi casa, en Melián 2770, casi esquina con Nahuel Huapi, tenía en su angosto pero largo jardín dos enormes palmeras, ciruelos de cinco variedades, un níspero, un caqui, una glicina y una frondosa higuera a la que nunca me pude encaramar por su resbalosa corteza. En la fría casona, la única pieza que nos brindaba calor en los inviernos de la “generación de los sabañones” era la cocina con su vieja estufa de gas.
Fue allí donde mi papá, George conversaba a menudo con su amigo Julio Cortázar. Nuestra mucama y cocinera, Mercedes Bazaldúa les batía unos Nescafé con azúcar y gotitas de agua a cucharita que George y Cortázar disfrutaban con sus cigarros. Mi papá fumaba Players Navy Cut que conseguía de la embajada de la India en donde trabajaba como traductor. Cortázar aborrecía los tabacos ingleses de mi papá. Me mandaba al boliche de la esquina ( en frente del almacén de Don Pascual) para comprarle Arizonas. Un día Cortazar me vio deslizarme en la barandilla de las escaleras de la casa. Se acercó y me susurró, “¡Cuidado Alex, que un buen día esas barandillas se convertirán en una Gillette!” Nunca supe, y peor, nunca tuve la curiosidad (hasta que fue demasiado tarde) de preguntar como mi papá, un periodista del Buenos Aires Herald, había conocido a Cortázar.
Mi papá se ausentaba con frecuencia. Cuando le preguntaba a mi mamá me decía que estaba en Villa Devoto porque había escrito algo en contra de Perón. Los vecinos de al lado eran peronistas. Cuando Perón hablaba desde su balcón de la casa rosada prendían la radio a todo volumen. Cuando se le iba la voz, Eva Perón tomaba su lugar. Yo no tenía gran amor por ella. Me decían que los juguetes de madera inútiles que nos daban el día de los tres reyes eran regalos de ella. Yo prefería un Meccano.
Al otro lado de la higuera vivían los calabreses. Mi amigo Miguelito y su familia, gritaban, se peleaban, se reían y comían en el patio. El papá, Fernando di Gregorio era nuestro peluquero. Su peluquería estaba sobre Nahuel Huapi. No paraba de hablar cuando me cortaba y siempre me regalaba un globo por mi paciencia. Miguelito y mi amigo judío alemán Mario Hertzberg (vivía en el 2773 en frente de mi casa) jugábamos en la calle. Jugábamos a las figuritas. Cuando llovía, las cantarillas no podían con los aguaceros, Melián se inundaba y nadábamos en la laguna que se formaba. Como estábamos muy cerca del Hospital Pirovano, las pompas fúnebres, carrozas laqueadas a un negro brillante y estiradas por cuatro caballos negros con plumetes sobre la cabeza, pasaban vacías en camino al hospital. Siempre esperábamos la vuelta para poder espiar el ataúd detrás de los cristales biselados.
En tiempo de carnaval las murgas marchaban por Melián hacia el corso de la calle Monroe. Manteníamos nuestra distancia para que no nos mojaran con los pomos de agua perfumada. Por Melián transitaba el ropaviejero, el afilador, el cloaquero y la Vascongada. Cuando venían las gitanas nos metíamos en la seguridad de nuestras casas. El hielero, a partir del 52, ya no paró en nuestra casa. Mi mamá había comprado una heladera eléctrica (la primera de la cuadra) de un alumno norteamericano que volvía a su país. Lo primero que hice con la heladera fue preparar una gelatina de lima marca Jell-O. Ya de niño discernía, como buen argentino, la superioridad gringa sobre el producto local Royal.
La hermana de Mercedes, Enilse vivía con nosotros. Como trabajaba cerca, en la fábrica Nestle (sobre las vias del tren) los dulces abundaban en casa. Su novio Juan era un conductor del tranvía 35 que me llevaba desde Nahuel Huapí al apartamento de mi abuela a la calle de Roque Saenz Peña en el centro. Cuando Juan venía a casa en su uniforme, en la mano siempre traía la manija niquelada con la cual conducía su tranvía. En una gloriosa ocasión me dejo tenerla unos momentos en la mano. Miguelito y Mario casi se murieron de envidia.
Anterior a Mercedes vivieron con nosotros una pareja de negros, Zelia y Abelardo. Zelia cocinaba muy bien. Un día, un vecino, el Sr. Hinch, me invitó a comer un asado de lomo. Esa noche Zelia me sirvió un asado de tira. Me quejé. Zelia se quitó el delantal y en pocos minutos, con Abelardo y las valijas se marcharon. Mi mamá de dio una paliza con su chinela filipina.
A los 9 años hice la primera comunión en la Capilla de Nuestra Señora del Carmen a la vuelta en Roque Pérez 2760. Cuando pasaron la canastilla para la limosna mi papa que estaba ebrio depositó un paquetito de pastillas Volpi, gusto de mandarina. Me avergoncé. Unos meses después mi papá se fue de la casa voluntariamente y me venía a ver una o dos veces al mes. En una de sus visitas me llevó al Schubert Hause en la calle de Rivera. Me acuerdo haber subido las escaleras de la glorieta interior donde un pianista y un violinista tocaban un tango. Mi papá me presentó y al verme tan rubio el pianista le dijo a mi papá, “Tu hijo parece alemán.” Mi mamá se enfureció con George por haberme llevado a un bar y no vi a mi papá por un tiempo. De todas las visitas que me hizo la que me acuerdo con mayor placer es cuando me llevó al Cine General Paz en Cabildo a ver Beau Geste con Gary Cooper y Ray Milland.
En el Ideal Monroe conocí las películas de Carlitos Chaplin. Pero a partir del 1950, Año del Libertador General San Martín, prefería ir al cine de los padres franciscanos capuchinos que estaba a un costado de la aun no terminada parroquia de Santa María de los Ángeles. A los capuchinos les deleitaba entretenernos con las películas de Tarzan con Johnny Weissmuller después de un corto sermón de cómo deberíamos ser buenos pibes e ir a misa.
En diciembre del 2004 volví a mi barrio. Volví como tenía que ser, por tren desde Retiro. Al pasar por Belgrano C me imaginé el colegio en donde mi mamá enseñó. El puesto en donde vendían licuados de banana con leche o con agua habría desaparecido hace años. Al cruzar el empalme hacia la estación de Drago sabía que había llegado a Coghlan. Todo estaba igual con la excepción de las plataformas más altas. Crucé el viejo puente al otro lado y las cuatro cuadras a mi casa me parecieron más cortas. Mi casa, aunque ya sin las palmeras, era como me la imaginaba. Con el tiempo ya no tengo rastros de Miguelito o de Mario. La peluquería ya no está. Todo ha cambiado, como tristemente debe ser. Pero hay un cambio que me llena de alegría. ¡Soy del barrio de Coghlan, y con mucha honra!
The English boy from Coghlan
The English Boy From Coghlan
In Vancouver, every once in a while, I read my cheap 1938 Thor
edition of Edmundo de Amicis’s Corazón.
Reading it reminds me of my Buenos Aires childhood and of the mysterious Manrique who packed a 45 under his left armpit. He was a friend of my father’s. I never found out if Manrique was his first or last name. One day he gave me the book.
From 1949 (when I was 7) until 1954 I lived in Coghlan a neighbourhood by the Ferrocaril Bartolomé Mitre train station. My friends from the American Grammar School, on Freire Street close to Coghlan but in the upscale barrio of Belgrano R, did not know I lived there. My mother Filomena taught physics and chemistry at the American High School which was also on Freire. I did not pay for the privilege of attending a private school for children, whose parents worked for General Motors Ford, the Lincoln Library or other agencies of the American State Department. My friends, who lived in San Isidro and Acassuso, would not have know where Coghlan was. I was ashamed of my Argentine imitation jeans. My friends wore the real thing, Levis. They often shared their Bazooka
and Double Bubble Gum
with me. The enterprising Argentine industry had managed to build advanced Pulqui 1
military jets but could not get jeans right or find a formula for decent bubble gum. I wanted to be a cowboy like Gene Autrey.
My house on 2770 Melián Street, almost corner with Nahuel Huapí, had a long and narrow garden with a couple of tall palm trees, five different varieties of plum trees, a loquat tree, a persimmon my father called a kaki, a fig tree which I could never climb because of its smooth bark and a purple/blue wisteria. The only warm room during the damp Buenos Aires winters was the kitchen with its old gas range.
It was in the kitchen where my father George would converse with his friend, Argentine writer Julio Cortázar. Mercedes Basaldúa, our housekeeper, would whip up Nescafe with sugar and a few drops of water with a tiny spoon. George and Cortázar would enjoy the frothy coffee with their cigarettes. My father smoked Player’s Navy Cut
he obtained from his translator’s job at the Indian Embassy. Cortázar hated English tobacco. I was sent to the corner store to buy the locally made Arizonas
. One day Cortazár caught me sliding down the banister. He whispered into my ear, “Watch out, when you least expect it, that banister is going to change into a Gillette razor blade!” I never found out, and worse, I was never curious enough to ask my father, a journalist who worked for the Buenos Aires Herald, how he had befriended Cortázar.
My father disappeared frequently. I would ask my mother who would reply that he was locked up at the Villa Devoto prison because he had written something against Perón. Our next door neighbours were peronists. When Perón gave his 25 de mayo
and 9 de Julio
independence day talks from the balcony of the Casa Rosada
, they had their radio at full blast. As soon as Perón lost his voice, his wife Evita would take over. I had no great love for her. On los Tres Reyes
(three kings day) Eva Perón gave us all hideous wooden toys. I wanted a Meccano
(Calabresi) lived on the other side of our backyard fig tree. My friend Miguelito and his family, shouted, fought, laughed and ate in the patio. Miguelito’s father, Fernando di Gregorio, was our barber. His shop was around the corner on Nahuel Huapí. He liked to talk. I was rewarded, for my patience, with a balloon. Miguelito and my German Jewish friend Mario Hertzberg (he lived across the street on Melian 2773) and I played on the street. Mario was El Ruso
(Jews are always called Russian in Argentina), Miguelito was El Tano for Italian and I was
El Inglesito, the little English boy. We played with little round football cards which we threw against a wall. The closest figurita from the wall took all. When it rained, the cobblestone street would flood. We would swim in our Melián swamp. We were very close to the Pirovano Hospital. So beautiful black-lacquered hearses, drawn by four shiny black stallions with black plumes on their head, frequently passed by, empty, on their way to the hospital morgue. We always lingered in the hope of spotting the coffin behind the beveled crystal windows.
During the pre-Lenten carnaval, murgas
, costumed marching musicians, headed down Melián to the corso
, the carnival festivity on Monroe Street. We kept our distance since the merrymakers like to soak us with their perfumed pomos (metal containers that could be squeezed) of water. On Melián we had a rag man, the ropaviejero , a knife sharpener, the man who reamed our drain pipes, and the horse drawn wagon (with car tires) of the Vascongad
a that delivered our milk. As of 1952 the ice man stopped coming to our house. We were the first ones on the block with a refrigerator. My mother had bought a used one from a departing American diplomat. The first thing I did was to prepare some lime flavoured Jell-O
. Even as a kid I could already discern, like the good Argentine that I was the superiority of American goods specially over our local Gelatina Royal
Mercedes’s sister, Enilse, lived with us. She worked in the nearby Nestle factory (by the railroad tracks) so we had sweets at home all the time. Her boyfriend Juan was a tram conductor. His Number 35 tram took us from Nahuel Huapí Street to my grandmother’s apartment on Roque Saenz Peña street, downtown. On the way I would spy the crenelated walls and towers of Villa Devoto and I would wonder if my father was in residence. Often Juan would visit in his uniform. In hand he had the special nickel plated tram control handle. In one glorious occasion he allowed me to hold it. Miguelito and Mario were envious.
Before Mercedes, we had Zelia and Abelardo, a married black couple living with us. Zelia was an excellent cook. One day our landlord and neighbour, el Señor Hinch invited me for an asado
lunch. I was served an expensive cut of meat called an asado de lomo
. That afternoon Zelia offered me a cheap asado d
. I complained. Zelia removed her apron, told Abelardo to pack the bags and they were gone that evening. My mother gave me a spanking with her Filipino chinela
When I was 9, I had my first communion at the Nuestra Señora del Carmen chapel, around the corner on Roque Pérez. When the nuns came to collect our contributions, my father who was drunk, placed a package of Volp
i, tangerine flavoured losenges in the basket. I was ashamed. A few months later my father voluntarily left the house. He would come to visit twice a month. In one of those visits he took me to Schubert House on Rivera Street. I remember going up a spiral staircase on the upper floor. A pianist and violinist were playing a tango. My father proudly introduced me to them. I was so blond then, that the pianist told my father, “Your son looks German.” My mother was furious with George when she found out he had taken me to a bar. I didn’t see him for a long time. Of all of my father’s visits I remember best when he took me to the General Paz Theater on Cabildo Street to see Beau Geste
with Gary Cooper and Ray Milland.
At the Ideal Monroe I first saw the films of Carlitos Ch
aplín. But beginning in 1950 (we had to write, on Peron’s orders, on the top right of every page of our school notebooks, “I950 The Year of our Liberator General Don José de San Martín) I liked going to the movie house that was run by Franciscan Capuchine monks and priests. The movie house was helping raise revenue to finish the Virgin Mary of the Angels parish church. After a short sermon, when we were told to be good boys and go to mass, we watched Tarzan movies with Johnny Weismuller.
In December 2004 I returned to my neighbourhood. I returned in the only way I could return, by train from Retiro, downtown. When I passed Belgrano R, I imagined the school where my mother had taught. The little stand, where they sold banana smoothies with milk or with water (my choice), had long disappeared. When the train crossed the Drago station barriers I knew I was almost in Coghlan. Everything was the same. I crossed the old iron bridge from one side of the platform to the other. The 4 blocks to my house felt much shorter. My house was there, minus the palm trees. The barbershop and Miguelito were gone and nobody could tell me where Mario now lived. Everything had changed. But there is one change, which fills me with joy. I once lived in Coghlan and I am proud of it.
In The Footsteps Of My Mother's Feet
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Fie, fie upon her! There's language in her eye, her cheek, her lip; Nay, her foot speaks. Her wanton spirits look out At every joint and motive of her body.
William Shakespeare, The History of Troilus and Cressida
No matter how hard I have avoided them, feet have followed me all my life. I tell the people that I photograph that the ugliest part of the body is a foot. As a portrait photographer, for me, the coup de grâce for feet is that they are so far from the face.
About 5 years ago on a trip to Pensacola, Florida, I was offered either a massage or a pedicure at a luxury resort development. I was much too shy to risk the total unveiling of my body for a massage so I decided to accept the pedicure. There I was sitting among 10 beautiful women who were talking about intimacies that made me blush! My pedicurist told me that no matter how old I really was my feet were young and perfect. I have never had any bunions and I have worn 8½s since I can remember. The shoes of Mark's Work Warehouse
fit me perfectly. I don't remember my father's feet but I certainly inherited my mother's. They were lovely. She said we both had swimmer's feet.
In 1992 I began noticing feet in earnest when I started taking pictures of ballerinas and modern dancers. Evelyn Hart's feet looked like Spain's Torquemada had been at them while trying to determine if her talent for dance came from the devil. Ballet BC dancer Lauri Stallings was embarrased to show her feet and only did so after I pleaded (right). Yet I could watch at a Ballet BC performance and I could tell, from the ankles down, which were Stallings's.
Peggy, the young dancer I photographed for the Straight
some years ago, proved that the feet need not be so far from the face.
Theobroma cacao - The Food Of The Gods
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
It was 1973 and Rosemary, Ale (6), Hilary (3) and I were trying to breakfast in the fancy St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Hilary was screaming and we were being stared at. The waiter, in a dinner jacket, asked my wife, "Madam is there anything we can do for the little girl?" Rosemary answered, "I don't think so, she wants tortillas, beans and Chocomilk." Since Hilary had been barely over one year old in our home in Mexico City, the only way she would drink her milk was if we added a generous portion of powdered Chocomilk. It wasn't until she was almost 5 that we weaned her away. Hilary today (34)still loves chocolate. We returned from our trip to Morelia with a large can of Chocomilk. I was tempted to buy one of the newer flavours like chocolate/banana but in the end I knew what Hilary wanted.
It was at the Morelia airport, on our way home that the kind Mexican security agent suggested that Rosemary take out her Carlos V
chocolate bars from her carry-on and place them in the luggage. It would seems that some alien and demented soul could possibly doctor the chocolate with some Prague plastique.
They have been making Carlos V chocolate bars in Mexico for years. Some say that since Nestle bought the company the flavour changed. If it did Rosemary has not noticed and she loves them. Only Spaniards would name a chocolate bar for a King (Charles V) who reigned before Charles III. Call that Latin logic.
35 years ago I was teaching English at the US pharmaceutical firm, Richardson Merrill in Mexico City. The company, which at the time made Vick's Vaporub
, had recently purchased a Mexican chocolate company. They manufactured Chocolate Expres
s which was a competitor to Hilary's Chocomilk. Richardson Merrill also made all sorts of wonderful Mexican chocolate bars but some cynical Mexicans stayed away from the chocolate covered mints - Vick's Vaporub filled chocolates, perhaps? My star student was Jan VanDyke a Dutch petroleum engineer who had lost his job with Shell in Indonesia when the Dutch were booted out. He was a chocolate expert now and was the plant engineer for Richardson Merrill. From him I learned the ins and outs of chocolate making and I will not bore you here with all he taught me. What is insteresting is while the chocolate plant(Theobroma cacao
)was discovered in Mexico, Mexico lost the chocolate market in the latter part of the 19th century when they lagged behind in the art of blending beans from different cultivars of the plant. Africans, particularly the Ghanians, did well and most of the good raw chocolate today comes from Africa.
But then there are many of us who like Mexican chocolate, perhaps because there is always a hint of cinnamon, even in Mexican Hersheys. And why did Hilary like Chocomilk? Unlike other products, like the more expensive Nestle Milo, Chocomilk did not dissolve well in milk. The pasty mixture that floated to the top, was a delight to spoon.
Journey Back To The Source
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
When you stop reading your native language you lose it. It wasn't until about 11 years ago that I re-discovered it through Manhattan Bookstore and its present incarnation as Sophia Books. Sophia Books has been taking my orders for books in Spanish since. I found treasures at the UBC Library. It has all the literary output of Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier who coined the "real maravilloso
" or magic realism. I have read and re-read "Viaje a la Semilla
" or Journey Back to the Source
, a short story in which all action happens backwards. It begins with a wake in which the burning candles get longer and longer and ends with the nails on a ship tearing themselves out and zooming to their source, the mines.
At least half of what I read is in Spanish. While I cannot read Portuguese I delight in reading all of José Saramago, translated into Spanish by his wife Pilar. And Perez-Reverte's swashbuckling Capitan Alatriste
novels are the closest I will ever get to living in Paris in the 19th century while waiting for Alexandre Dumas's next installment of the Three Musketeers
I cannot imagine reading Spanish in Vancouver without being able to share my delights with others who speak and read the language. Alas, Juan Manuel Sanchez and Nora Patrich have gone to Buenos Aires until December and my music conductor friend Juan Castelao is in Oviedo, Spain working on his masters until next June. I miss them. I bought a slew of books in Spanish at Sanborn's in Morelia. A couple of them are by Spanish authors. Juan Castelao would know about the authors. Castelao reminds me of my Abuelita (grandmother). My grandmother was proud that her husband and my grandfather, Don Tirso de Irureta Goyena was one of the few Filipinos who had been inducted into the venerable Real Academia Española. In 1954 she gave me a Real Academia Dictionary and reminded me in the dedication how I should love the Spanish language as much as her Tirso had. When I showed Juan my money belt that I had purchased for a trip, he said, "Una faltriquera
." Juan knew the exact word for it in Spanish. And of course the dashing Capitán Alatriste wears one right nexct to this trusty foil.
There are no more lazy afternoons at Juan and Nora's discussing in Spanish world events and art while sipping mate. Juan keeps assorted varieties of crackers and cookies in a tin and serves these with the mate. Nora is the one who prepares (cebar) the mate. To cebar a mate is close to making tortillas by hand. Inexplicably some people can and some can't.
I miss meeting with Juan Castelao at Nando's for extra hot chicken wings (he likes the chicken livers) or discussing the merits (unknown to me until now) of Bruckner.
I miss them and I consider myself so lucky that I do.Real Academia Española
Who Shaves The Barber?
Monday, August 21, 2006
I hate having my picture taken. Worst of all, since this is so infrequent, the shock on how I have aged is even more patently obvious. This self portrait I took at the Metropolitan in NY in the mid 80s. I was astounded that they allowed pictures on tripods there. There was no glass protecting Rembrandt's own portrait. I wonder if that has changed?
I would rather photograph my granddaughter Rebecca (Lauren, her younger sister is coming along). This one represents a second year of a series of photographs that I take at the entrance of Mexican baroque churches.
Brother Cadfael ( The Fragrant One)
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Some many years ago British Airways offered me a trip to Shropshire that was labeled as literary. I ended up going to Byron's Newstead Abbey and went to 8a Victoria Street, Eastwood, Nottingham, where D.H. Lawrence was born. I visited Much Wenlock a town where novelist/poet Mary Gladys Webb (1881-1927) lived for some years. Most of her delightful books are about the Shropshire she loved. But it was in Shrewsbury where I had special fun. The paradox of this city for me was that Charles Darwin, its favourite son, had almost no presence while Ellis Peters's circa AD 1140 detective monk, Brother Cadfael, seemed to ooze out of every stone I saw and photographed. This was specially so at the Abbey of St. Peter & St. Paul. It was almost anochronistic to find a rack of Brother Cadfael paperbacks for sale inside the church! Shrewsbury is famous for its medieval (begun in the 12th century) church of St. Mary the Virgin. The church has beautiful stained glass windows from the 14th to the 19th century. I asked a taxi driver how he pronounced the name of his town. He was colourful in his answer, "Those with their nose up in the air make it rhyme with show
. We taxi drivers rhyme it with the little nasty rodent." I tried to find one Aconitum (Monkshood) growing in the lovely church gardens. This extremely deadly plant is central to the murder in Monkshood. A Welshman and a crusader in the First Crusade, Brother Cadfael knew his poisons since he was also an apothecary. But there were no specimens (it usually has intensly blue flowers) to be found anywhere. Luckily Rosemary loves this plant. We grow it in the back of the borders and I have told Rebecca to be careful.
I was not interested in roses at the time so I chose not to visit David Austin's Shropshire nursery. I have made up for lost time. I now have at least 20 of his English Roses in my garden. Rosa
'Mary Webb'is stingy in repeat blooming but the near white (they remind me of whipped cream) flowers are huge and have the strongest myrrh scent of all of Austin's roses. I also have two extremely shade tolerant roses (a unique virtue in very few roses), Rosa
'Shropshire Lad' and Rosa
'Shropshire Lass'. A month ago I discovered Rosa
'Brother Cadfael'(above left). It was too late in the season to plant in the ground (I will do this in the fall) so I left him in the original plastic pot. Last night I scanned three of the fruity scented blooms. Mr. David Austin, when are you going to remember your favourite son, Charles?