Squirrel was the nickname of a taxi driver we had hired to drive us to the most weird (or common) places to collect data as journalists working in Bilbao.
I never knew his real name. He was a short, thin and resolutive man. He used to have his taxi stationed in a stop near our building waiting for customers when he was not working for us.
I used to go to the stop to look for him when I needed a ride to go in a hurry to work in an ongoing news in some distant place, usually with a photographer who would take the pictures for the report or the interview at takes.
Once we went to make a report about the tuna fishermen of Bermeo. My boss sent me to do it precisely when all the fishermen were in the high seas fishing. Squirrel knew that. He knew almost everything. It was an impossible assignment. And my boss wanted a whole page written by me for that very night. It was his way to test me. I was a rocky then. Just nineteen. Taking my first steps in the job.
We went to Bermeo anyway. Squirrel helped me to talk with the women of the fishermen port (they spoke in Basque and very fast) and I got a good story about their way of life.
That night, I was able to fill my page with a human interest article. Not precisely what my boss had ask for, but something that was worth it. Test passed.
This is the flag of the city of Kotor in one of the balconies of the main square. The city is a little jewel in one of the most beautiful bays of the Adriatic, the Kotor Bay, in Montenegro, just south of Croatia.
The city is completely fortified, and everything inside is baroque or medieval. It has plenty of history… and life. It’s my father’s home city and one of the most beloved places for me.
Josip Jelačić statue in Zagreb (Croatia)
A view of the Cathedral of Zagreb (Croatia)
St. Mark church, Zagreb (Croatia)
This post is going to be a little reiterating, but today’s prompt has remind me my recent visit to the house and atelier of the Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović in Zagreb.
There were beautiful sculptures in bronze and stone finished into the house along with furniture made by him, and also sketches and studies of pieces for larger monuments in the garden and the atelier. It was very interesting to see all this works of art and also to see the house in which he lived since 1920 till 1942, with his beautiful dinning room and his characteristic ceramic stoves.
In the picture, a study of a hand for a large statue and a sketch for a relief in the atelier
The violoncellist, by Ivan Meštrović
I have been recently in the atelier of the sculptor Ivan Meštrović in Zagreb (Croatia) which is now a museum. He has a great expressive strength in his sculptures in bronze and stone.
I was deeply impressed by the tenderness of the Pietà of the saint Mark’s church in the upper city of Zagreb, that you can see in the picture above.
After contemplating that, I went to the atelier were I saw sculptures very strong and angular, and among them, other very tender, always with the mother as a main figure, like the woman with her child, that you can see in the picture bellow.
My travel to meet my roots has come to an end. I have been in the bay where my dad awakened to the life and the hometown of my mom.
My eyes and my soul are filled with blue. The blue of the sea, the blue of the incredible landscapes of my parents childhood. Maybe this is why blue has been always my favourite colour.
Now I’m back at home, in the city, surrounded by asphalt, concrete and grey stones.I just had come home and I’m already longing to see once more the Adriatic sea.
I’m feeling a little blues. But I’m already making plans to came back soon to that fantastic place.
In the Pictures, Kotor Bay (Montenegro) and Senj (Croatia)
I have been in Croatia the past month and I have followed there the final of the World Cup and the welcoming to the football team that lost the final but won the respect of many and came back being the second best team of the championship.
The Croatians celebrated the silver medal as if they were the champions. I was in a bar in Senj, My mom’s home town, watching the final against France. Our players fought till the end despite the score was devastating: 4-2.
To my surprise, all the people took it immediately for the positive side, and begun to celebrate the silver as a big achievement with great joy. I thought in what would happen if that would happen to Spain: Something like that would probably provoke bitter critiques to the trainer and maybe some anger above all among the commentators and some of the hooligans.
Instead, we were really proud of our guys. Much more when the prize for the best player of the championship went to our midfielder Luka Modrić.
While we were watching the ceremony of the imposition of the medals under the rain in Moscow we decided to give our own medal in our sunny town to our waiter, who had been serving drinks during the match without rest. And like this, the jokes and cheers went on and on.
I went to Zagreb, the capital of the country, next day. It was impressive. everybody dressed in the colours of the team. Eight hours of feast with the players and the trainer, all the streets and the main square full of people, and a special connection among the players and the people. They sang the same songs at one voice. They celebrated a big achievement with great joy.
We were a small country ( 4,5 million people) and had reached the second place in the World Cup.
And the best of all, in such a big crowd, ( they estimated half a million people in a city of one million) not a single incident. I’m glad I was there those days.
In the picture, celebrating the final when the match was already lost
Yesterday I visited the Croatian National Park of the Plitvice Lakes. It was quite a challenge for me, because I have some problems with my balance and I need a walker which was impossible to use it on the irregular paths of the park.
I have a crutch for these cases but it was also difficult to use it there, so under my own risk I decided to venture myself without the walker or the crutch, but with the help of the arm of a good friend and leaning in the railings that you can find in some places along the way thru the forest, the shore of the lakes and the proximity of the many waterfalls you can find there. I had to be extra careful to avoid a fall.
The effort was worth it. I/m glad to have been able to spend the day in that place.
if I would’t dare leave behind my walker and my crutches I would not be able to see and take pictures of these marvels of Nature.
I’m trying to reach a milestone in my life by writing a book, something I have never done before.
I had already written a chapter in a collective book about Europe between two Revolutions (1917-1989) when I was a teacher at the University and many articles for the books of the year issued by my newspaper when I was a reporter. But I have never tried something by myself, like this one.
I have begun with lots of energy, and great expectations, The story was flowing nicely and the structure of the chapters I had made was working well. But little by little, my project has began to get a little complicated and now I’m in a sort of crisis of inspiration.
I’m about to go to Croatia for a month, where I’m going to visit, among other places, some of the scenarios where the story of my book takes place. I hope this would help me to return to the focusing I have almost lost and take back my inspiration.
I’m really excited with this trip and I’m sure it will help me in many ways, not only with the book.
In a few days I’m going to travel to Croatia and the remembrances of my last trip are particularly vivid. It was maybe 14 or 15 years ago. My mom was getting very old but she was in good health. So she began to say frequently: “I don’t want to die without have seen my homeland once more.”
Back then, I was suffering a deep depression and working hard as a reporter in a newspaper, so I asked my brother and my sisters if they could go with mom to Croatia but no one seemed ready to go with her.
That year, for Christmas, there was a big party at my newspaper I didn’t go because I was too depressed. But there was a raffle among all the workers present or not. And I won the best prize: a trip for two during one week to Cuba. Sun, the Caribbean beaches… But again, I was too depressed to claim my prize. Meanwhile my mom continued saying: “I don’t want to die without seen my homeland once more and take a walk on the streets of my hometown.”
In April I went to ask if my prize was available and they said of course. So I went to the travel agency and asked if I could change the travel to Cuba to one to Croatia and they said no problem. Even more, because Croatia it was nearer than Cuba (I live in Spain) we could stay 15 days instead of one week.
And certainly in July, I forgot about my depression and took my mom to Croatia. We had a wonderful time together. We went to Senj, her hometown and to Dubrovnik. She told me incredible stories, while we were watching the ships navigate among the islands or while we were simply staring at the stunning sunsets.
I remember being watching her while she was swimming, like a mother with her little kid, with fear because she was going too far away from the shore, but she was enjoying herself enormously. It was really a wonderful trip.
Now, I’m going back to the same places by my own, since she passed away a few months ago. But I’m sure she will be very close to me, and I will feel her lovely smile and her sweet voice, telling me the most endearing stories.
After many years going out with the help of a walker, because of my balance problems, today I decided to take my chances and went to an outing with only a crutch. I wanted to leave the city and take a walk thru the uneven paths of the hills, where you can breathe fresh air and enjoy the nature.
The walker is only useful for the paved streets of the city or the villages. And the possibilities are limited. With the crutch you can slowly go a little way thru some easy country paths.
Everything went OK. I didn’t fall. The hills were still green and beautiful, and the views from there were nice. It was a short walk but enough for me to feel really rejuvenate.
We have had good news at the pond: Mr and Mrs swan have had babies: two “ugly ducklings” who are actually pretty cute. The swans are very protective towards their cygnets and they don’t allow any duck to came near them. As they are the biggest on the pond, they can impose their law very easily.
We have at the park two ponds with plenty of ducks, geese and other waterfowl, but only a pair of swan. The ponds are inside the old moats of the city walls, which are now part of parks and green areas. It’s a nice place to take a walk and relax a little.
For the first time in many years I’m going to take a vacation. I’m going to Croatia where my family comes from, and I will stay there for a whole month, to visit the cities and places that are related with my parent’s life. It’s going to be a very emotional trip, since my mom passed away only a few months ago.
I’m gonna met with my cousins and my aunt Mira, who is still alive, to hear her stories about the old times. But mainly, I’m gonna take long walks by my own thru the streets of the lovely cities and by the seashore, contemplating the many and beautiful islands scattered along the coast. No hurries. I want, if is possible, to met my roots.
My trip is only two weeks away, and I’m already very nervous, thinking about what should I include in my baggage and what should I left at home. I can’t wait for the moment to check-in for my flight!
In the picture a view of the walls of Dubrovnik captured I don’t remember how many years ago
The parallel waves
are drawing horizontal lines
in constant motion
a close-up view
of the old stairs
at my friend’s house
I worked for two years in San Francisco as a stringer for a News Agency from Spain. A friend of mine let me stay at her family house for a while. One day I was working in my laptop and I noticed that the lights began to behave strangely.
The lamps went too bright and then too dark and I began to smell like if something was burning. But we couldn’t see any fire. My friend, pretty shaken, called 911 and told me: Hurry, unplug all the computers and home appliances and to run off the house. I didn’t have enough time to go thru the kitchen when I was already hearing the sirens of the firefighters trucks arriving at full speed.
We all got out of the house while the firefighters began to search for the fire. By then the lights were completely off. It was an electric fire that exploded in several plugs and switches on walls causing small damages, but ruining the computers I wasn’t able to unplug.
They found the source of the fire (a short-circuit in the wiring that supplied electricity to the entire house) and they made a temporary fix until the guy from the electricity company came (very quickly) and he repaired the wires.
I was the journalist at home so I made the pictures of the damages to send them to the insurance. Then I understood why my friend was so scared from the beginning of the incident: The structure of the house was wooden! We could have burned like a box of matches!
The culprit of the fire was the electric company, because of lack of maintenance of the wires, and they paid for all the damages. In one month I could buy a brand new laptop I desperately needed for my job.
Several days after the fire, we were dinning and suddenly everything began to move. Silence. I grabbed the table. I forgot all the rules and instructions about what to do in case of an earthquake.
I simply looked fixedly at the eyes to my friend like asking her: is this normal? and waited while I was shaken by a force too big to describe. things began to fall around, the dishes were rattling… I don’t know how long it was… ¿seconds? but for me were like hours. And it was “nothing” only a 5.6 degree in the Richter scale.
(the picture is from 1999)
We are under the tyranny of the Football World Cup ( or Soccer, if you prefer). We have Football in TV every day from the afternoon to the evening. And like it or not it’s on the news, in the conversations, in the store windows, and everywhere…
The championship has begun in Russia with many surprises.
The biggest stars are not shining as it was expected of them. For instance, Leo Messi, probably the best player in the world, missed miserably a penalty and was unable to deliver a single goal in a match against a team that never before in history had been qualified for the championship: Iceland.
Among the players who are now playing in Russia, there are some multi millionaires and famous and others unknown, with modest salaries. On the field it seems that the less known are fighting with more enthusiasm, at least in these firsts matches.
The current world champion, Germany, lost its match against Mexico. Argentina tied with Iceland and Brazil, according to the specialists, the best team in the championship, only could tie with Switzerland, a team little known beyond its borders, but whose players were not intimidated by the brazilian stars. Good for them!
I can follow the championship by listening to the noises at the public square under my windows. when there is a match all is quiet: everybody is at home watching tv. When there is a break, the streets come alive and from the square you can hear the noises and shouts of kids playing…yes: football.
When I was little, I was the target of jokes of choice for my classmates, because I couldn’t speak properly Spanish. I had went to school not knowing a single word of the language, because we were immigrants and at home we spoke Croatian.
I was constantly making mistakes and messing words. I remember that even the teacher laughed on me once I made a mistake when I was trying to tell her that I wanted to leave because I was having a migraine and she provoke, with her answer, the laughter of the whole class. I was really desperate so I left and went home.
There was another little girl with problems with the Language. We didn’t know, but she had a neurological illness. She had trouble understanding the meaning of some words. Sometimes, the teacher asked us one by one about the correct use of some prepositions or adverbs and that girl always failed. The others laughed at her. Not me. I found it too cruel. I couldn’t but feel sorry for her.I wanted to help her but I didn’t know how .
Not too long after that, she died from her illness. That day all the jokes and laughs in the classroom became bewilderment and tears.
New and old columns are here
the firsts have no more than twelve years
the others have seen many centuries.
Over here we have many gastronomic societies. Some of them are simply that: a group of friends who get together to have a very good cooked meal in a nice environment.
But there are others that are organized to celebrate the wonders of a particular product: So we have The brotherhood of white asparagus, The brotherhood of olive oil, the brotherhood of the red pepper and many more. All of them, or almost all, with their medieval looking banner, its uniforms (hats with feathers and long cloaks) and its ancestral language to make public proclamations. They don’t have reunions or assemblies , they have “Chapters”. When they admit new members, usually among famous people they organize a ceremony imitating the order of ancient knights. And they finish with a nice banquet. Of course.
I’m sure they have a great time tasting their favourite meals doing those things. What I don’t understand is why a bunch of grown men have such a need to disguise themselves and play that way.
I have to say that most of their time, when they are not in Chapter or ordering new members, they spend it working to promote their product in the market, That is true.
My city keeps its ancient walls all around the old quarter, with its bastions, battlements, bulwarks, part of its moat, its beautiful citadel, even a gate with a wooden drawbridge which is still working.
Obviously, they no longer are used as a defence against the enemy, and around the city walls there are parks and green areas. When I was a kid I used to play knights and princesses over there with my brother and my sisters.
A stick as a sword and our imagination in such a scenery made wonders. We made up thousand of stories; each one more fantastic than the previous. We could play for hours and never get bored.
Now I don’t see so many children playing around the city walls the way we used to. Maybe knights and princesses and castles are not “cool” any more, or maybe is hard for kids to imagine adventures of the lost centuries outside a video game. Who knows!
Many years ago, I worked as an intern in a radio station making interviews and reporting about culture. I had to fill a space of three minutes with news about the music events in the city. One day I had prepared an interview with the conductor of an orchestra who was going to perform that evening the Brahms Symphony Number 3. But he failed me at the last moment. I was in a pickle! I had three minutes empty to fill with whatever.
I decided to search in the archive of the radio station the record of the Symphony and talk a little about it and about the orchestra, but the archive was very messy. Plus I have a kind of dyslexia, so instead of looking for the box with the label Brahms Symphony number 3, I was looking desperately for the label Symphony number 1.
The clock was ticking And I heard from the archive my boss on air saying: “…and in a few seconds our contributor Olga will tell us the lasts news about culture in our city”.
So I prayed with all my strength: dear God let me find the record! …And suddenly I saw it! The box with the label I was looking for: the Symphony Number 1.
I took it and went running to the studio, gave it to the technician and sit down next to my boss, ready to talk at the microphone. When I checked to my notes, I realized in dismay my mistake. But just then, the technician put on the record and the music that sounded was the Symphony number 3 . The one I needed. The record was inside the wrong box! . I had would never found it if I hadn’t made that mistake with the numbers.
I really think my prayers were heard that day.
I hate being negative, but purple reminds me to the dead, because is the colour of the funerals in the church.
I have too recent my mom’s funeral, with all the priests dressed in purple chasuble, singing songs about the everlasting life, in wich I firmly believe.
It was a very sad day, because is always hard to say good-bye. Above all when there is so much love involved.
Now her home is no longer a home, but a strange empty place. It was also a day of hope, because she went to a better life, stopped suffering and finally rested. And I’m sure she’s now with dad in heaven, wich was her biggest wish.
But we, down here, would like to have her more time, to hear her stories, laugh with her, feel her love for us, her children.
I have spent my last five years taking care of her since she had a stroke. I still getting up in the morning thinking: I have to go to take care of mom… And then the harsh truth strikes my mind like a hammer. I have no longer where to go.
Well, I have found places to go and things to do, but without mom.
My life has changed completely.I miss her badly.
Slippery and treacherous
Beautiful and wild
The river in all my dreams
Speaking about nightmares is dangerous. I don’t know if there are out there reading this , dream interpreters who can deduce things about my inner self I don’t want to reveal.
I’ll write though about a recurring nightmare I have had for a long time.
To explain it I have to describe a little one of the main streets of my city. It has two big roundabouts with a big fountain in the middle. When I was a kid, I couldn’t distinguish one from the other and I thought that there was only one fountain, so I couldn’t understand why sometimes there were certain buildings around and sometimes there were other buildings completely different. When I went for the first time for a walk with my parents all the way down that street and we passed by the two fountains, I understood and got somehow oriented.
In my nightmare I’m out doing some errands and arrive to one of the roundabouts. Suddenly I lose balance and fall down. I get completely dizzy, and when I open my eyes, all the buildings and the streets around the fountain are different. I get up and try to go home but the streets keep changing its place, so I get completely lost. I feel like in a labyrinth. Finally, when I think I recognise something near my home I end up in a cul-de-sac where there is only a dirty, black charcoal warehouse, guarded by a threatening dog growling and barking loud.
Then I wake up.
In the picture, one of the fountains of my confusion
This is the door of a small church from the XIV Century in Idocin (Navarre) The arches are primitive Gothic. A treasure I found in my last outing.
I used to follow the concerts backstage, because I had to work: report about the event and interview the artists. Once there was a concert by a duo of Cello and Contrabass.
The virtuosi musicians were Italians. The cello player was a short and vivacious man, with long curly grey hair and the Contrabass player was a silent tall and thin guy, with short black hair and somehow disturbing yellow eyes as I’ve never seen in my life.
The cello player was trying to give me an insight on how hard was the life of the artists: Many hours of practice, constant travels, no time for the family… Untill he made a dramatic move and took the left hand of his companion and extended also his own hands to show me the cracks and calluses in their fingers caused by the strings of their instruments. Impressive. I hadn’t doubt he was telling the truth, but his last gesture convinced me.
Once a friend went to the Netherlands and brought a tulip bulb in a beautiful box. It was winter. She put the box on a shelf over a heater in her room because it was so decorative and forgot about it.
One day, I was talking with her – it was already Spring – and I noticed that the box was swollen. I asked her What was it and she suddenly remembered that it was time past to plant the tulip bulb.
We opened the box and saw that the tulip had grown screwed around the bulb, and the flower had opened but absolutely white, without any colour, because it hadn’t seen a ray of sun.
We planted the tulip in the garden and it survived, with a twisted stem and a flower pale orange instead of red.
The following year we did everything right and at the proper time, and the flower bloomed splendorous: tall and red, beautiful.
Since we don’t have the daily prompt I have turned back for inspiration in the Jennifer Nichole Wells’ Topic Generator at http://topicgenerator.wordpress.com It provides you a random noun combined with a random adjective as a headline for your blog post.
Today it gave me the combination “Homely Tradition”
The first thing it came to my mind was music.
When we were kids my dad used to wake us up in feast days and special occasions with music. He would turned on the record player and surprised us with some joyful classic.
We would jumped up from bed and would run to the living room knowing that something special was waiting for us. A little gift, a funny poem, and that was only the beginning of a wonderful day in wich wouldn’t fail a delicious cake baked by mom.
So, from our childhood we have the music associated to joy and nice family life, because we also sang together a lot. Nowadays in the era of the headphones the music experience has become more individualistic (apart from the concerts and the street musicians). I
miss the times when we listened to the music together. With the social networks one can easily establish relationships with distant and unknown people and have problems to interact with real people in the neighbourhood. That happens to me above all with youngsters. I don’t know. Maybe I’m getting old.
These are the three flags fluttering in the balcony of the Government of Navarre Palace: The red one is the Navarre flag, the red and yellow one is the Spanish flag, and the blue with the tiny yellow stars one is the European flag.
Folders containing my dad’s old manuscripts from sixty years ago.
I’m living inland and I ‘m permanently longing for the ocean with its open horizon, its salty smell, its breeze, The sound of its waves…
I belong to a family with several centuries of history of marine tradition. We have lots of ship’s captains among our ancestors. But my father pursued other goals, in the field of literature and journalism, and besides he had to exile from his country In eastern Europe many years ago, persecuted by the communists. So we ended settled in a city far away from the sea in a new country.
Nevertheless, the call for the open horizons is in my blood and I return to the coast whenever I can, to enjoy that unique atmosphere, watch the ships, sail, and swim, and breath the clean air at the shore while the waves wet my feet.
The picture has been taken in Bermeo, Bizkaia (Spain)
Place in the World
Last summer I was peacefully reading at home when somebody came hurriedly saying: “Quick! Your camera! there is an enormous bird in the garden pretty aggressive” .
I went out and certainly I saw a big vulture on the grass. He had been fallen from a tree top where he had been perched and once in the confined garden he had no room to take a run to take off and fly. So we had to call to the wild animal rescue service to help us get the vulture out of there.
But Oh wonder! it was a feast day, and the people at the public service didn’t consider our problem an emergency, even as our uninvited guest had blocked the garden door and our parking lot. They told us to wait till next day and if he continued there they would send some people to catch him.
For sure, the next morning the vulture was still in our garden. They sent a woman i a Land Rover with a cage and a blanket. The idea was throw the blanket over the animal to neutralize him and then put him in the cage. But the vulture wouldn’t let her approach and the cage was too small. So the gardener had to help catch the bird and I had to help with the cage. She prohibited me to take pictures of the process.
When the vulture was secure in the cage we went to the mountain to look for a hill with enough space for the vulture to take off and fly and we set him free.
Something that always makes me smile is look at the new-born animals. So I took my camera today hoping to take pictures of some ducklings in the park for the weekly photo challenge.
It was the first mild day in this cold spring. The park was full of young parents with their kids and other people watching the animals, down in the ancient castle’s moats. There are swans, ducks, turkeys, peacocks, geese, cocks, pheasants and many more species. And there are also deer and hinds but there are not fawns yet.
When I was trying to take some pictures of the new ducklings, suddenly a big Grey Heron, came of nowhere and went down like an arrow, trapped a duckling with its beak and went up to a tree with its prey to have its meal. The little kids began to cry and ask to their parents that was going to happen to the duckling. Some began to tell fantastic stories about how the big bird only wanted to play with the little. Others, more realistic began to explain them in simple words how the nature works. So, no smile at the sight of the ducklings so vulnerable with the grey heron perched up, looking down, threatening…
This week the topic is Letter Y – Needs to start or end with the letter Y or in the caption for the photo “Why” needs to be present.
I have chosen the grey colour
Sky with grey clouds
This is a statue of the goddess Venus at the Taconera park, close to my home. They call her “Mariblanca” (Mary white) This is how it looks today, in winter.
In a close-up she seems like she has been crying…
This is how she looks in Spring.