Sunday, September 30, 2018

A tale of two towers - then normal service resumes

Torre del Mar is a coastal resort in the Malaga province, which means the beach is basically a sandy strip between high-density resorts, but it was originally a Moorish fishing village and the town behind the long promenade is popular with the Spanish so although Brit is spoken, it doesn't predominate. The old castle was expanded and fortified in the 1730s as a direct response to the loss of Gibraltar: some of the old walls remain and although much has gone, there are definitely what the Bristol Old Vic team would call Ponderable Clues. Information at the site  is entirely in Spanish, and is compiled with plangent indignation, translating: In 1704,  Gibraltar was lost in an act of piracy by the English fleet while Spain was not at war with Great Britain, and became a base to continuously harass the coasts of Malaga... Everyone you'll meet nowadays of course is charming to the English - we're no longer the dominant nation who seized the rock, we have a more risible role on the political scene, and Nazi bombing less than 100 years ago seems even more outrageous - there's a mural of Picasso's famous protest painting on the sea front, in the silver-sandy tones of the strand. We were on the campsite, under plane trees and near the beach bars where you could watch the moonlight flickering on the sea as darkness spread and it was still warm...

Further down the coast in Gibraltar itself, there's another history: a tale of epic endeavour as years of conflict left the rock riddled with tunnels longer than the roads outside, and 14 sieges devastated the community - the final one, in 1740, lasting four years. This tale doesn't need translation- it's English, like the town streets and pubs named after our monarchs, admirals and politicians. The caves, however, were home for Neanderthal communities for 100,000 years - there's a great museum emphasising their important place in the history of the rock - and from 711 this was a key part of the Muslim empire here, named The Hill of Tariq after their leader. The old Moorish tower known as the Calahorra, half-way up the climbable part of the hill, was the largest in the area of Iberia controlled by Islam and for 800 years called Al-Andalus. This was a seige tower, a place of last resort in the many battles that followed - there's 'impact craters' on its sturdy walls that have been dated back to the Castilian attack of 1333. Life under siege for the British community during the 18th century would have supported Thomas Hobbes view of life as 'nasty, brutish, and short', in a camp where disease, starvation, and bad sanitation killed them off in hundreds every year. Military discipline was savage - the mother in the reconstruction may be upset not just by that cartload of grey corpses but because her husband is lashed to a frame awaiting flogging for missing a call of Who Goes There? as required every half minute by men on sentry duty.

Back home, Frome is doing a nice line in autumnal sunshine and Somerset Open Studios arts fortnight is nearly over - in fact the only studio I've visited is Clive Walley who is developing his impressive series of Birches in Mist... here's Clive with 109 and 110 as a  diptych. The turbulent, red-tinged, foreground to these ethereal trees adds a strange undefinable element that visitors have found powerful and disturbing.

Though I've missed much music, including marvellous Pete Gage at the Grain Bar, I did arrive home in time to hear the extraordinary voice of Lewis Clark at the Cornerhouse, not only sounding amazing on his own folk/blues but interpreting Amy Winehouse impressively too.
Saturday was also Bath Spa University MA Scriptwriting Showcase Festival, with an afternoon of 16 short scripts, showcased fully-produced for stage or screen. Rosie and I went along as all three young actors in our 2017 Nevertheless Pub Theatre festival drama - Time Slides -were involved in various productions. I usually prefer live drama, but the two films we saw impressed us more than the staged scripts: one was a clever & very funny parody of women's roles in the entertainment industry written & directed by Gabrielle Finnegan, the other the poignant & succinct story of a short-lived child-snatch by a feckless mother - look out for more from Isla Ure. Gabby, hope you don't mind I've nicked this picture of you filming from the Shorts and Tees website!

It's six years now since writer Kate McEwan had the unlikely-sounding idea of overcoming her procrastination by gathering a likeminded group around her to encourage each other to persevere.
'The Write Place' became their shared solution - a studio at The Black Swan where you reserve a desk space and then just get on with it, and the group has grown to around 200 members, all using the opportunity of a few hours away from home pressures or temptations plus the ethos of commitment to personal projects. And perhaps also unlikely, Sunday morning turned out to be a perfect time for a writer's party to celebrate with prosecco & cakes, and talk with writer friends familiar and new, and join Kate's toast to 'Procrastination, the tie that binds us.'

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