Lockerbie bomb plane returns to Scotland

Lockerbie disaster memorial (Lockerbie cemetery)

Lockerbie disaster memorial (Lockerbie cemetery) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lockerbie bomb plane returns to Scotland

This year sees the twenty fifth anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing, where 270 people were killed when Pan AM Flight 103 from London to New York exploded over the small town of Lockerbie in Scotland.


Tilting at Windmills

Molino de la Ezequiela en el parque natural de...

Molino de la Ezequiela en el parque natural de San Pedro del Pinatar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don Quixote is famous for confusing windmills with giants in one of the most well known novels in Spanish literature set in the province of Castilla La Mancha. However, he could have just as much fun with the windmills that are dotted along the Costa Blanca and Costa Cálida in southern Spain.

Windmills in Torre Pacheco

Many town councils have spent time and money restoring the windmills of the region, most of which date to around the nineteenth century. Torre Pacheco in particular has restored four of the fourteen windmills within its jurisdiction and plans to restore the rest over time. In fact, the Tourist Information Office in the town centre has produced a brochure for a ‘Windmill Tour’ that can be followed around the town and its surroundings. Every April, a special ‘Windmill Fiesta’ takes place where the mills are set working and events are organized explaining how the windmills were an important part of the agricultural process in the area.

The earliest reference to windmills dates back as far as the early 1300’s, when their main use was for the grinding of flour. The first documentary evidence that shows the existence of windmills in the Torre Pacheco area dates from the late 18th century. These documents make reference to a Mr. Felix who was given a lease of a flour windmill.

By the late 19th century, windmills were also being built for raising water to irrigate the land for the growing of crops, although this was mainly in the Cartagena area of Murcia province. Several of these windmills, sadly now in ruins, can be seen as you travel along the AP7 motorway towards Cartagena, south from Alicante.

Windmills in San Pedro del Pinatar

Another town with well-preserved windmills is San Pedro del Pinatar which has two, one either end of the walkway that heads out into the Mar Menor near the mud baths. The town is a very popular holiday resort and during the summer, the walkway between the windmills is filled with happy families ‘promenading’ in traditional Spanish fashion of an evening.

The city of Torrevieja also has a restored windmill, situated just on the outskirts of the main town centre which was unfortunately recently vandalized. However, the town hall and the family who have been responsible for the upkeep of the windmill for many years worked hard together to restore it once again, although the sails themselves have not been replaced.

These windmills are an integral part of the history of agriculture in the region, as well as being beautiful to look at, so saddle up Rosinante, sharpen your lance and head out to have a look!

Disability Discrimination

This is the internationally recognized symbol ...

This is the internationally recognized symbol for accessibility (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 2012, Britain held the hugely successful Paralympics Games. It was hailed as a new dawn for the disabled, teaching the world to be more respectful of those with serious illnesses and disabilities. Has it worked? Has it heck! Instead, the disabled are the subject of a media rampage where anyone who walks with a stick must be a ‘scrounger’ or ‘lazy’. This attitude has led to a big increase in disability hate crime.

Several newspaper reports in the last week have shown just how much respect the disabled get these days. Two sufferers of Parkinson’s disease have been quite literally harrassed by the police. One was arrested because he didn’t look happy at a sporting event- he is unable to move the muscles in his face due to the disease! This week its Parkinson’s Awareness Week. Figures released show that 1 in 5 sufferers have been accused of being drunk because the effects of the condition make the sufferer have trouble with movement and speech.

Mencap says that nine out of ten people with a learning disability have suffered abuse. There have been tragic stories such as that of Fiona Pilkington who killed herself and her disabled daughter after suffering years of torment by youths. Repeated complaints to the police were ignored.

If someone finds they have to use a wheelchair for whatever reason, they will discover they instantly become invisible. Baroness Tani Grey-Thompson, one of Britain’s best known Paralympians, suffered the indignity of having to throw her wheelchair off a train and then crawl off herself as there was no one to help her. Recently, she was forced to crawl up several flights of stairs in the block of flats where she lives because the lift was broken.

The next time you go out and about, think about how difficult your journey would be if you had difficulties walking, climbing stairs or negotiating traffic. Imagine if tomorrow, you were struck down with a painful and disabling illness. How would you feel? How would you cope? There are thousands of disabled people in Britain, many of whom aren’t in a wheelchair and whose illness may not be obvious at first glance.

As a society, we seem to have lost the art of compassion. If someone walking with a stick in front of us is too slow, we barge past. If someone has a learning difficulty or a disabling illness, we ignore them, pretend they don’t exist or even worse secretly think that actually they shouldn’t exist. Society these days is all about youth and beauty but disability could strike anyone, at any time and at any age. Think about it…next time it could be you.

Southside Fringe in Glasgow

The Southside Fringe Festival will take place in over 20 local venues on the south side of Glasgow from the 10-26 May 2013.

The festival will cover everything from live music, to comedy to theatre and art exhibitions. For more information on events, venues and times, visit the website here, or follow on Facebook here.
This is a perfect opportunity to enjoy quality entertainment south of the River Clyde.Image

Flamenco Dancing

 Flamenco dancing is seen as one of the most typical images of Spain. The music, the swirling dresses, the stamping feet all add to the magic of this beautiful dance form.

With the economic crisis, however, more and more dancers are having to leave their native Spain to find work. There are at least 44 Flamenco festivals held round the world in places as diverse as Poland, Turkey, Japan and Canada.

Composer Miguel Marín says “There is a market for flamenco around the world — what we need now is for supply to adapt to the demand. In the majority of countries they pay from around 10 percent to 50 percent less than in Spain; nevertheless in Japan they pay more than at home.”

Although they know that they will get paid less, performers still move abroad because they know they will get far more opportunities to dance. Britain and the USA are currently the biggest markets for Flamenco festivals.

Flamenco, which covers the dance style, the singing and the guitar playing that go with it, originated in southern Spain, in Andalucia, and was originally associated with the Romani (or Gypsy) people. It was first mentioned in literature in 1774. No-one is quite sure how the name came out. Literally translated in modern Spanish it would come out as ‘flamingo’ but it’s believed that originally the name grew from ‘flama’ which is flame or fire and describes the dramatic style beautifully. The proud bearing of the women dancers with their graceful arm movements and rapidly stamping feet of the more traditional style has developed, like other dance forms, into more free flowing moves such as those performed by perhaps the best known male dancer, Joaquín Cortés.

So popular has the dance become that you will most probably be able to go along to a class in your local city to learn the most basic style, known as ‘Sevillanas’ or attend a performance by some of the world’s best known performers at festivals in cities like London, New York, Tokyo, Moscow and many more.

Flamenco dancing woman with a shawl. Internati...

Flamenco dancing woman with a shawl. International fest in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s body exhumed

Pablo Neruda (1904–1973)

Pablo Neruda (1904–1973) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Nobel Prize winning poet died aged 69 in 1973, just days after General Pinochet’s coup in Chile. Rumours have abounded ever since that he was murdered.

Now forensic experts have exhumed his remains to carry out tests to establish whether he died of cancer, as was thought at the time or whether he had been poisoned.

Allegations of poisoning were made by the poet’s driver and personal assistant, Manuel Araya. In 2011, the Chilean authorities began to investigate. Neruda was a staunch supporter of Salvador Allende, the president ousted by Pinochet.

Manuel Araya told a Mexican magazine ‘Proceso’ that he was convinced Neruda had been murdered. Interviewed by El Pais newspaper, he said, “After the September 11 coup, he was planning to go into exile with his wife Matilde. The plan was to try to overthrow the dictator within three months from abroad. He was going to ask the world to help overthrow Pinochet, but before he could board a plane the plotters took advantage of the fact that he had been admitted to a hospital, and that’s where they injected him in his stomach with poison.”

Investigations are also ongoing to investigate the death of Salvador Allende who apparently committed suicide during the coup.

Pablo Neruda was buried originally in the General Cemetery in the Chilean capital, Santiago. His body was moved at the request of his family to Isla Negra, his favourite home, in 1992.

It is known that Neruda had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was being treated in the hospital. Patricio Bustos, director of Legal Medical Services (SML) who are assisting in the identification of the remains said, “Fortunately, this isn’t a case of someone who was arrested and disappeared so there are photographic and video records that document the moment of the burial. We know his identify.But we will also try to answer some of the questions that Judge Carroza has asked: Was the illness the only cause of his death? Did someone inject him with any toxic substance or chemicals? This is why we are working with toxicologists, genetic experts, biochemists and doctors.”

Pablo Neruda was born Ricardo Eliezer Neftali Reyes y Basoalto in Temuco, a small town in southern Chile in 1904. He started using his pseudonym as a teenager.In 1921, he moved to Santiago where the publication of his poems ‘Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada’ (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair) marked him out as a great poet. He travelled widely ending up as the Chilean Consul in Spain in 1935. He supported the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War which led to him being forced to leave Spain.

He became devoted to the Communist cause, which is evident in his poetry.He returned to Chile in 1953. In 1971 he was nominated for president of the Chilean Communist Party but turned it down as he had become friends with the Socialist Allende. He was sent to Paris in a diplomatic role by Allende and it was there he received his Nobel Prize for Literature. His health forced him to return to Chile and his sudden death in 1973.

Time will tell whether Pablo Neruda died of cancer or was poisoned but his words live on in the hearts of poetry lovers everywhere.


Death Alone by Pablo Neruda

There are lone cemeteries,
tombs full of soundless bones,
the heart threading a tunnel,
a dark, dark tunnel :
like a wreck we die to the very core,
as if drowning at the heart
or collapsing inwards from skin to soul.

There are corpses,
clammy slabs for feet,
there is death in the bones,
like a pure sound,
a bark without its dog,
out of certain bells, certain tombs
swelling in this humidity like lament or rain.

I see, when alone at times,
coffins under sail
setting out with the pale dead, women in their dead braids,
bakers as white as angels,
thoughtful girls married to notaries,
coffins ascending the vertical river of the dead,
the wine-dark river to its source,
with their sails swollen with the sound of death,
filled with the silent noise of death.

Death is drawn to sound
like a slipper without a foot, a suit without its wearer,
comes to knock with a ring, stoneless and fingerless,
comes to shout without a mouth, a tongue, without a throat.
Nevertheless its footsteps sound
and its clothes echo, hushed like a tree.

I do not know, I am ignorant, I hardly see
but it seems to me that its song has the colour of wet violets,
violets well used to the earth,
since the face of death is green,
and the gaze of death green
with the etched moisture of a violet’s leaf
and its grave colour of exasperated winter.

But death goes about the earth also, riding a broom
lapping the ground in search of the dead –
death is in the broom,
it is the tongue of death looking for the dead,
the needle of death looking for the thread.

Death lies in our beds :
in the lazy mattresses, the black blankets,
lives a full stretch and then suddenly blows,
blows sound unknown filling out the sheets
and there are beds sailing into a harbour
where death is waiting, dressed as an admiral.

Miguel Hernández: Spain’s Civil War Poet

Español: Centro Cultural Miguel Hernández, ant...

Español: Centro Cultural Miguel Hernández, antigua Caja de Ahorros de Monserrate, en Orihuela. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The turbulent times of the Spanish Civil War produced many great works, including the poems of Miguel Hernández.

Miguel Hernández is possibly one of Spain’s best known poets of modern times, especially due to his activities and tragic death during the Spanish Civil War. He came from the city of Orihuela, in the province of Alicante, an old and beautiful city. However, his family was poor and he had little education until the priest of his local church took him under his wing and taught him to read and enjoy both the classic Spanish authors such as Miguel Cervantes, who wrote the most iconic Spanish novel of all time Don Quixote, and the more modern writers working in Spain at that time.

He wanted to establish a literary career so at the tender age of 21 headed for the capital Madrid to seek his fortune. Sadly, his money ran out quickly and he was forced to return home but he was not discouraged and tried several times over the next two years to get himself and his work noticed in Madrid. He was jubilant when his first book was published when he was 23 and his first play came out the next year.

Miguel Hernández and Friends

In 1934, during already turbulent times, he returned to Madrid and became friendly with now famous writers such as Pablo Neruda, Garcia Lorca and Luis Cernuda. Miguel Hernández helped Neruda in the publishing of a journal called Caballo Verde de Poesia (Poetry’s Green Knight) which became a popular and influential source for writers and readers. Around 1936, he became more interested in the Republican cause, no doubt due to the influence of his writer friends at that time, publishing El Rayo Que No Cesa (Unceasing Lightning). He had been in love with Josefina Manresa since they were children and they decided to get married in 1937. Sadly, the son they had, Manuel Román died just a year after his birth, an event that had a deep and lasting impact on Hernández and his work.

Spanish Civil War

By now, the Spanish Civil War, which started in 1936, was reaching its worst moments and Miguel Hernández joined the Republican army, those who were fighting against the forces of General Franco. The poetry that he wrote around this time focuses on the horror of war, with poems such as “Viento del Pueblo” (1937) and “El Hombre Acecha” (1938) being particular examples.

In 1939, the Republican resistance began to collapse and Hernández tried to escape to Portugal. However, he was captured by the Guardia Civil, an elite Para-military police force, and taken to Madrid where he was thrown into prison. Being imprisoned did not stop him from writing, though. He still had friends in high places and was thus able to return briefly to his home town of Orihuela before being arrested again. Tragically, the conditions in the prisons led to him contracting the lung disease tuberculosis and being moved from prison to prison over the next three years only made his health worse.

However, it was during this time of great hardship that he produced what poetry experts consider to be his best work such as “Todo Era Azul” (Everything is Blue) and “Eterna Sombra” (Eternal Shadow) from which comes this poignant verse:

Soy una abierta ventana que escucha,
por donde ver tenebrosa la vida.
Pero hay un rayo de sol en la lucha
que siempre deja la sombra vencida.

(I am an open window that listens
From where life can be seen as frightening
But there is a ray of sunlight in the battle
That always defeats the shadow)

Death of Miguel Hernández

He was still in prison, away from his family and friends, when he died on March 28, 1942 at just 31 years of age. Just before his death, he was able to write one more short poem, said to be written on the wall beside his bed in prison, “Farewell, brothers, comrades, friends: Give my goodbyes to the sun and the wheat fields.”

The Miguel Hernández website is dedicated to the poet, and his old home in Orihuela has been transformed into a museum where items he used can be seen and the small garden he sat in can also be visited.

Iain Banks has terminal cancer

English: Iain Banks, author, at the Edinburgh ...

English: Iain Banks, author, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Iain Banks has terminal cancer

The Wasp Factory may have been one of the weirder books I have read, but am sad to hear that it’s author Iain Banks, one of Scotland’s best known writers, has announced that he is dying of cancer. He has less than a year to live. Wishing him and his new wife Adele the best that is possible in the circumstances.