My journey

As a young man, I assumed  would spend a lot of my life in Spain. After “best laid plans” and all that, it didn’t happen. I ended up much further away from home. Well, this year unexpected things occurred and I find myself back in Spain for the first time in 38 years. And not only back in Spain but in my favorite bit of it: Andalusia.

It’s been a real homecoming for me, and my wife is also enjoying  getting in touch with her roots.  A visit to Córdoba and the Mezquita was inevitable. The Patio de los Naranjos. The Moors’ palm trees were supposedly replaced with organge trees to please the queen, Isabel la Católica.

X patio los naranjos

When I entered the main building, it took my breath away – I literally gasped.

Mezquita arches 5

Mezquita big archThis was the view from La Calahorra, the tower at the south side of the Roman bridge that is now a small but very interesting museum.

view from calahorra 3

More to follow…


Uncle Harry was one of the strongest influences in my childhood. He was actually my great uncle (Tom’s brother and Mum’s uncle). He was born on 24 October 1905 and died on  16 November 1991. Harry was quietly spoken and rather serious but had a sense of humor.


The kids in this photo are hoping to collect lumps of coal falling off the backs of lorries, during the General Strike of 1926 (in which Tom took part). The workers were defeated in the strike and their conditions worsened. The children look remarkably cheerful.



This photo was taken at Millwall Dock in the 1960s. The bus being loaded on to the ship is a Routemaster, one of the most iconic sights to be seen in post-War London. Wiki has a very extensive entry on the bus (here). The technology that went in to the design of the bus was, for its day, cutting edge.


London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, decided hold a competition for the design of a new Routemaster. You can see photos of Routemasters old and new here.

When I was small, Tom used to take me on quite a few outings. One place that was always exciting to visit was Petticoat Lane market, across the river in the East End.


“More than a thousand stalls spread over two streets make up Petticoat Lane Market. This East End market which has been operating since the 1750’s or earlier, is named after the petticoats and lace once sold there by the Huguenots who came to London from France. The street was renamed Middlesex Street in 1830 by the Victorians who wanted to avoid references to women’s underwear, but the name had stuck. The market specialises in new goods ranging from running shoes to kitchen utensils.” (quoted from here)


A friend asked me what the women pictured on the beach in Nazaré were doing.

Sardines are a staple food in Portugal. As I read on one Web page, “When most of us think of sardines, we imagine tiny skinny, bony creatures compressed into a tiny tin can but in Portugal fresh, succulent sardines measure between 9 and 10 inches – the bigger, the fatter, the fresher – the better.”

In the photo, the racks are being used to dry freshly-caught sardines, which the women then grill over charcoal. The smell is one of the things visitors most remember about the country.  My memories of the sardine sellers are of very old women with wizened features, dressed entirely in black, like something out of a Garcia Lorca play. Portugal was an extremely Catholic country back then (as was Spain, of course). It was like stepping back in time.

At university, I began studying Portuguese, along with Spanish. Few British universities at that time offered truly Latin American courses, which obviously had to include Brazil and the Portuguese language.

As part of the program, students were required to spend their summers taking courses at universities in Spain and Portugal. In my case, it was the summers of 1970 and 1971. While it meant I had no opportunity to go the Isle of Wight concert and see Jimi Hendrix’s last appearance (I was studying in Southampton, opposite the  island), I did have some memorable experiences. I remember spending time in La Coruña, León, Salamanca, Madrid, Barcelona, Oporto and Coimbra.

Franco still ruled Spain but his regime felt enlightened compared to the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal. I was surprised at the marked difference between the two countries. Portugal felt dark and oppressed; it was much more backward.

I was able to visit places near the universities where I studied and one memory that really sticks out is a weekend I spent in Nazaré with some other British students. The coastal town is now a popular holiday resort but back then there were few foreigners to be seen.

I found the following photo on Wiki. You can see how the town is split into different sections by the cliffs. A Praia runs north along the seafront, while O Sitio (the original settlement) sits atop the hill. A funicular, or cliff railway, transports people up and down. An excellent collection of photos of the town is to be found on this flickr page.



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