VERDURAS ORGÁNICAS

DAY 23 Sunday 23 September

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Bakeries open for just a few hours on Sundays and I’m never sure which or where - I found a new one today and bought a lovely crusty stick. A late breakfast in the Plaza Mayor; coffee con leche y tostada con tomate; definitely my favourite Spanish breakfast. As I was leaving I spotted a couple of Brits and went over for a chat.

This afternoon collected my homegrown organic vegetables. The gardener, Ana has a WhatsApp group and advertises her produce weekly; then you go and collect it from her garage cum shop. Great idea!

 I quite fancy one of these- it would turn a few heads though!

I quite fancy one of these- it would turn a few heads though!

Lots of men in the town have quad bikes which they park outside their houses- usually adapted with boxes to carry produce. The old men have ride-on rotavators with trailers, but I haven’t seen any women riding them... yet.

 Naiad. Mono-print on paper.

Naiad. Mono-print on paper.

TOWN TOUR

DAY 22 Saturday 22 September

 Map showing the various cultural quarters of Chelva (barrios). An amazing number for such a small place.

Map showing the various cultural quarters of Chelva (barrios). An amazing number for such a small place.

Every Saturday the Archeological Museum offers different walking tours; this week was the cultural quarters (barrios) of the Chelva. Just three of us plus the guide assembled at 10am and set off for a two hour walk around the Moorish (North African Arab) Christian, Jewish and Arab (Muslim residents re-settled outside the city walls) quarters.

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The museum is small, but gives a good account of the different cultures passing through Chelva; starting with prehistoric cave dwellers with flint arrows by the Chelva River, the Ibericans who spoke a non Proto-Indo European language akin to Basque and then the Romans, Moors and Christians and Jews; only the street patterns seem to remain from previous inhabitants and the irrigation system. I also leant that the Roman aqueduct was not built by slaves, but by professionals.

 Two pieces of Arab influenced pottery caught my eye. The images on the right are token money used during the Civil War.

Two pieces of Arab influenced pottery caught my eye. The images on the right are token money used during the Civil War.

The final case shows artefacts from the Civil War, including local paper coins/notes which each town issued, because the official currency was used by the government to pay for troops and armaments.

 Hand cooked crisps on the snack stall, delicious olives and pickles and wild fungi. People buy them in kilos- I’m not sure what they do with so many!

Hand cooked crisps on the snack stall, delicious olives and pickles and wild fungi. People buy them in kilos- I’m not sure what they do with so many!

Saturday is also market day and I buy olives, fruit and more ‘ravellanos ‘? mushrooms, which I take home and cook straight away. The old lady selling them sits on a crate with two baskets full and she sells me a kilo! They are pale orange with green bruises but turn red when cut, but simmer down to an innocuous brown when cooked; slightly woody and chewy. I don’t think I’ll rush out and buy more.

 Typical street planting

Typical street planting

After siesta I go for a cup of tea with an Argentinian woman and her Basque husband who also live in the Arrabal district; we eat a selection of delicious homemade jams on biscuits.

FOOD AND WATER

DAY 21 Friday 21 September

 Limones, patatas, pimientos de Padron and lechuga.

Limones, patatas, pimientos de Padron and lechuga.

I shop here nearly everyday - food doesn’t keep fresh for long- perhaps it’s the heat. Fruit and vegetables are tasty and cheap, but fish and cheese seem to be more expensive. Lemons are sold by weight.

 Potatoes baked with lemon, garlic and red peppers followed by greengages.

Potatoes baked with lemon, garlic and red peppers followed by greengages.

I return to the ‘Kindness of Strangers’ and ‘Naiads’ series today; the new Ox-ear Hair brush has a nice loose, watery quality.

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The bottle contains water from a spring about a mile away; el Fuente de Berra. I walked there and a small boy took my plastic bottle to fill it - a precious memory. 

 Agua Del Fuente de Berra. Mono print on paper.

Agua Del Fuente de Berra. Mono print on paper.

I drank the water with lunch; lemon baked potatoes with fresh mackerel.

 

CALLING HOME

DAY 20 Thursday 20 September

 A new bar to add to my choice of watering holes- there’s a few!

A new bar to add to my choice of watering holes- there’s a few!

The wonders of technology- an hour’s FaceTime conversation this morning and then out for a cold beer in a nice little bar; it’s too hot for coffee. I chat on the phone with another English friend and realise how precious it is to keep connected and share experiences. But there’s still something about the Internet that’s not good for the soul...

Today I find the towns three recycling bins behind the Parish church- good to know.

Delicious baked lemon chicken with potatoes for supper, with new friends under the trees. 

VALENCIA

DAY 19 Wednesday 19 September

 The Ceramics Museum is housed in the remarkable   Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas  .which has a spectacular carved alabaster facade and lovely crimson and jade coloured interiors.

The Ceramics Museum is housed in the remarkable Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas.which has a spectacular carved alabaster facade and lovely crimson and jade coloured interiors.

Arrabal neighbours with two daughters living in Valencia gave me lift to Valencia and back today. We drove the route I came on the bus 19 days ago, without the detours and stops enroute; Lliria I discover is quite a large town. The journey takes an hour by car.

I’ve have researched Wikipedia and learnt a little of Valencia’s history. It was founded as a Roman colony 2500 years ago for retired soldiers and was called “Valentia” meaning brave, but it’s hay-day was C15th when it’s wealth was generated by banking and the silk trade- until Venice took over! Today Valencia is the third biggest metropolitan area in Spain and the fifth busiest port in Europe; it has a population of 1.7-2.5 million. So there we are.

 R. Vidal is the Art shop in Valencia and everything comes wrapped in nice yellow paper parcels. I bought paper and a Ox-ear Hair brush - a Spanish speciality perhaps?

R. Vidal is the Art shop in Valencia and everything comes wrapped in nice yellow paper parcels. I bought paper and a Ox-ear Hair brush - a Spanish speciality perhaps?

They drop me in an area called Benimaclet: a modern suburb of tight streets and flats and I walk to the bus station from there; then to the art supply shop near one of the old city gates; the Torres de Serranos. I’ve bought enough paper to keep me busy for a while.

I bought a brush made of ox-ear hair... we’ll see how that works, but I couldn’t resist its provenance!

A beer, tapas and lunch with friends who have a lovely flat in the Old Town. Then a visit to the ceramics museum housed in the wonderful, alabaster fronted Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas.

 I love the quality of these drawings on ceramics and the particular palette of colours.

I love the quality of these drawings on ceramics and the particular palette of colours.

I was keen to revisit the Arab influenced Majolica-tin glazed ware which I thought might inform my prints.

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It’s a long walk back to Benimaclet and I get lost in the maze of small streets, but eventually find the place thanks to mobile data. We return via the Lidl supermarket in Lliria and then home to the narrow, winding streets and whitewashed houses of Chelva - another world!

OPENING THE WATER GATE

DAY 18 Tuesday 18 September

Today was one of those days when the computer steals your life, but at least I’ve edited this video entitled SED (Thirst). It shows Ben, opening the irrigation gate to water his parched allotment (campo). A wonderful experience; a simple but profound delight.

SOMETHINGS I’VE NOTICED

DAY 17 Monday 17 September

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• Everything comes in plastic bags unless you say ‘¡no plastico!’ But the baker did give me a nice piece of greaseproof paper when I asked. 

 • The local red wines are very strong and delicious! This label shows the Peña Cortada Viaducto.

 • Quite a few houses have rows of bottles or water containers in front of gates and doors. I think they are mainly empty or to unoccupied properties and I wondered why? I asked a neighbour; apparently it’s to stop dogs peeing in the corners!


 

 

RIEGO Y FUENTE

DAY 16 Sunday 16 September

 A locust on the window screen.

A locust on the window screen.

There’s a very scary looking locust on one of the window screens this morning.

 The Old Mosque is a lovely space and I’m wondering about making an installation there?

The Old Mosque is a lovely space and I’m wondering about making an installation there?

A bright sunny day and a friend informs me that the water to his allotment (campo) is running today and he is planning to irrigate his plot. It is a very simple mechanism but profoundly wonderful process to see the sluice gate being opened and water spill from the pipes onto the parched ground.

 Watering the vegetable garden

Watering the vegetable garden

En route he borrows the key to show me the inside if the Old Mosque; (La mezquita) it’s a lovely space.

 

 Gate Keeper 3. Mono-print on cardboard and plaster.

Gate Keeper 3. Mono-print on cardboard and plaster.

I decide to walk to the Fuente de Berra which I couldn’t find on my last walk.

 The Shepherd, an ancient olive tree by a cross roads and collecting water at the Fuente de Berra.

The Shepherd, an ancient olive tree by a cross roads and collecting water at the Fuente de Berra.

On my way I watch an old shepherd separate the ram from his flock and then lead them down the road to graze in the fields under the olives- all rather archetypal.

Apparently lots of people drive to the spring from town to collect their drinking water. It’s on the other side of the Chelva River down a dirt road, high up amongst the olive groves - below the level of the road. It’s very understated; it trickles slowly and silently from a low brown spout. I find it because a man and his young son have parked and are collecting several large canisters of water.

I sit down to wait my turn with my small 0.75l bottle and the little boy comes  over, takes it and gives it to his father to fill. How lovely is that.

I return home with my bottle of fresh spring-water and a few figs from a ruined-cottage garden.

 Water from the Fuente de Berra

Water from the Fuente de Berra

I buy eggs from the old man up the lane and a few local toadstools, but when I get them home they look too poisonous and I don’t have the courage to eat them! 

 Fresh eggs, rovanalles? fungi and a nice glass of wine in the garden.

Fresh eggs, rovanalles? fungi and a nice glass of wine in the garden.

GATE KEEPERS

Saturday 15th September 2018

 The grapes here are delicious; I bought this homegrown bunch from an old lady sitting on the pavement surrounded by a few plastic crates of tomatoes and green beans.

The grapes here are delicious; I bought this homegrown bunch from an old lady sitting on the pavement surrounded by a few plastic crates of tomatoes and green beans.

Market day today so I walked up to the Plaza Major. It was quite quiet, but I bought my fruit and vegetables and then a trip to the supermarket for household stuff.

There was quite a gathering of Brits outside the plaza cafe plus an Argentinian who grew up in London and a recent arrival from Quebec. Cafe con leche all round! It poured with rain but stopped after a few minutes and remained dry for the rest of the day.

 Sketches for Gate-Keepers. Mono prints on corrugated cardboard and scrap paper.

Sketches for Gate-Keepers. Mono prints on corrugated cardboard and scrap paper.

I’ve run out of paper and am now using the corrugated cardboard covering the studio floor. I’ve applied a layer of fibre reinforced wall-filler! I’m hoping for a sort of fresco effect... mmm. Sounds unlikely. I’ve start to experiment using a Majolica-ware palette.

UPPER AND LOWER WATERS

DAY 14 14 September 2018

 Wash Day

Wash Day

I’ve always wanted to hang my washing on one of those frames outside windows; you see them all over the Mediterranean. Well, now I have one. They are the antithesis of tumbler dryers- the washing bakes dry in full public view, and comes in smelling of sunshine.

 Channel and print

Channel and print

I’m not sure what to make of today’s work, I tried making prints informed by the dimensions to the sluice gate.

A friend sent me a quote about being given ‘upper and lower waters’ and I’m wondering about that. It’s strange that I haven’t seen wells here?

 Upper and Lower Gates. Mono prints on black paper.

Upper and Lower Gates. Mono prints on black paper.

LA RUTA DEL AGUA

DAY 13 13 September 2018

 Now I have a yoga mat there are no excuses!

Now I have a yoga mat there are no excuses!

When it gets cool I explore the other end of the riverside walk: la ruta del agua. Ruined mills, a lovely green, fast flowing river, an old medieval bridge, a waterfall, caves and something called La Luz- but I didn’t find out what! I’ll have to go back another time... it’s perfect place for an evening stroll.

 La ruta del agua

La ruta del agua

The figs trees perfume the air and I pick a few for supper.

 Rose hips and a small waterfall

Rose hips and a small waterfall

A really lovely circular walk with a steep flight of steps back up into town.

 Looking back to town from the other side of the Chelva valley and a view of the river.

Looking back to town from the other side of the Chelva valley and a view of the river.

COMPUERTA DE RIEGO

DAY 12 12 September 2018

 El Golgól Lavadero

El Golgól Lavadero

It’s 10.15am and the builders merchant is bound to be open I thought, so I walked up to the roundabout, but ‘non’; there’s an unadvertised coffee break between 10-11am.

I had not explored this upper, more modern part of town before. Here is the Post Office, pharmacist, Tourist Information, a green-grocer (where I bought some superior looking paella rice and fresh garlic). I also discover the Gimnasio Municipal and am shown round by a lady from the Pilates class. It’s clean and best of all it has a sauna! I have to join at the Town Hall for 10€.

Most importantly I discover El Gorgól. I have now paid my respects to all the Lavaderos; it looks strangely marooned amongst modern flats, but as I step under the whitewashed rafters and hear the sound of the water pouring out of the spout into the pale jade-coloured tank, I know the Naiads are still present.

 Hand cooked crisps, paella rice and garlic

Hand cooked crisps, paella rice and garlic

Then off to the supermarket to buy supper- I’m going to attempt a fish version of paella and then home, via the Chinese Bazaar where I buy a yoga mat.

 Nearly every town has a Chinese Bazaar which stock almost everything.

Nearly every town has a Chinese Bazaar which stock almost everything.

It’s 12.30 and I hotfoot back to the builders merchants to explain to the woman, that I want to buy an irrigation sluice gate- por favor. Of course I have to revert to drawing one and am told I have to buy the whole thing - sluice and gate.

 Sluice gates are an integral part of the local irrigation system, which was originally installed by the Arabs. The channels feed every garden and vegetable plot (campo) in the town and the sluice gates (compuerto) are opened and closed in a strict rota and timetable.

Sluice gates are an integral part of the local irrigation system, which was originally installed by the Arabs. The channels feed every garden and vegetable plot (campo) in the town and the sluice gates (compuerto) are opened and closed in a strict rota and timetable.

There are three sizes and I pick the smallest; it’s concrete and I have to carry it home. I discover that VAT is 25% in Spain.

 This piece sits in the irrigation channel; it’s quite complex when you look at it carefully.

This piece sits in the irrigation channel; it’s quite complex when you look at it carefully.

Me encanta mi compuerta de riego! It’s a truly wonderful object. It looks simple but every surface has been refined and engineered. The gate (compuerta) rocks nicely in its slot.

 The gate is lifted out of the channel to allow the waters to flow.

The gate is lifted out of the channel to allow the waters to flow.

I had thought I might paint my sluice-gate, but I’m going to live with it for a while and have placed it on a shelf surrounded by Naiad prints.

 ‘Ready-made....’

‘Ready-made....’

In the evening it’s yoga in the nearby town of Vilar. Shin, a Korean acupuncturist married to a Basque architect, gives me a lift to the class held in an old people’s community hall. It is a mix of Hatha, Tai Chi and relaxation.

 My attempt at paella, but I’m sure the locals wouldn’t approve!

My attempt at paella, but I’m sure the locals wouldn’t approve!

I don’t think I should call it paella, but it was very nice with a mix of salmon, hake? and shrimps. Traditionally, the best bit is the crispy rice burnt to the bottom of the pan-delicious.

 El Compuerto on the studio shelf

El Compuerto on the studio shelf

LAS MADRES CARMESÍ

DAY 11 11 September 2018

 Piero della Francesca (1416/17 - 1492). The Duke and Duchess of Urbino Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza (detail), 1473-75. Oil on wood. Florence: The Uffizi, Inv. 1890 nn. 1615, 3342. Source: The Uffizi

Piero della Francesca (1416/17 - 1492). The Duke and Duchess of Urbino Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza (detail), 1473-75. Oil on wood. Florence: The Uffizi, Inv. 1890 nn. 1615, 3342. Source: The Uffizi

Crimson is a very old colour. Jars of Kermes have been found in Neolithic cave-burials and throughout the ancient Mediterranean Middle East where the Kermes Oak is indigenous.

The word "kermes" is derived from the Sanskrit krmi-ja (worm+beget), Persian 'qirmiz’ or Spanish ‘carmes’(carmine’).

The dye is prepared from the dried bodies of pregnant females scale insects (Kermes echinatus).

 Madre Carmesí 1. Mono-print on paper.

Madre Carmesí 1. Mono-print on paper.

By the European Middle Ages, crimson cloth dyed with kermes exceeded the prestige of Tyrian Purple “in status and desirability” in the silk-weaving centers of Italy and Spain. Crimson became the colour of kings, cardinals and popes.

 Madre Carmesí 2. Mono-print on paper.

Madre Carmesí 2. Mono-print on paper.

Following the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire (1519–21) Mexican cochineal, which produces a more intense red dye replaced kermes in Europe.

 Madre Carmesí 3. Mono-print on paper.

Madre Carmesí 3. Mono-print on paper.

 Madre Carmesí 4. Mono-print on paper.

Madre Carmesí 4. Mono-print on paper.

ACUEDUCTO

DAY 10 10 September 2018

 On my way...

On my way...

A cooler, cloudy day and so I set off to find the aqueduct about 10am with hat and water this time. I meet no cars at all on the road, only a few tractors and rotivators.

My rudimentary map doesn’t show a footpath so I miss the turning and walk on the road instead; a long winding and undulating route on an un-metalled surface through olive groves. No trickling water here; only the wind and cicadas.

It feels a long way and I realise I’m back in Camino walking mode; slow, measured and without expectation. I’m relieved to see road signs though and realise I’m nearly there when I see two ruined ashlar arches in a olive grove.

 Nearly there. I’m guessing the local terrace walls are the infill stones to the Roman masonry.

Nearly there. I’m guessing the local terrace walls are the infill stones to the Roman masonry.

I’m the only person there when I arrive at the aqueduct; it’s stunning with the added thrill of no handrails and huge drops on either side.

 The Peña Cortada Aquaduct

The Peña Cortada Aquaduct

It dates from the mid C1-2 first AD; its source was probably a Roman dam on the Tuejar River and it served the major town of Lliria.

 Peña Cortada roughly translates as the ‘Painful Wound’ I think.

Peña Cortada roughly translates as the ‘Painful Wound’ I think.

The aqueduct, although modified through the ages is still in use as the "acequia madre" (main water conduct) of Chelva. That I must see!

http://www.romanaqueducts.info/aquasite/chelva/index.html

However, I’m not alone for long. A Spanish family turn up and can’t resist the urge to yodel and make Formula 1 noises, but they soon move on.

 The Tunnels and Windows with their spectacular views into the gorge.

The Tunnels and Windows with their spectacular views into the gorge.

Walking on, I come to a very deep and dramatic gash in the rock- El Peña Cortada. It was a quarry, but also acted as a channel to feed the aqueduct. Followed by a series of tunnels with hewn ‘windows’ looking down into the valley below. Stunning, but it would have needed hundreds of slaves to build it.

 Left. The Peña Cortada from a distance. Top Right. The bed of the aqueduct and Lower Right. The view down into the gorge.

Left. The Peña Cortada from a distance. Top Right. The bed of the aqueduct and Lower Right. The view down into the gorge.

There’s a circular route to walk, but I will tackle that another day. On the way back I see a footpath marked and follow that; it’s a much shorter and easier route home!

 Aloes grow beside the track; they are a very beautiful shade of powdery jade. The yellow and white markings denote a footpath route.

Aloes grow beside the track; they are a very beautiful shade of powdery jade. The yellow and white markings denote a footpath route.

After a siesta, I go into town about 7.30pm. There’s a huge queue of schoolchildren in the stationary shop-it must be the start of term. I enjoy a good fuddle in shops abroad; it’s interesting to see what you can and cannot buy. I found bleach and sponge-backed pan-scourers, but no surface cleaner anywhere. I smile to discover condoms are displayed in the stand with the rubber gloves.

A trip to the Chinese store is an especial delight- like giant Pound Shops they sell everything. I found a selection of hogs hair round calligraphy brushes. Just the thing and I buy one.

 The Chinese Shop and a well earnt caña de cervezza (about half a pint for 1 Euro).

The Chinese Shop and a well earnt caña de cervezza (about half a pint for 1 Euro).

A quick beer in the Plaza Mayor and then home.

PLACES I DIDN’T VISIT

Day 9 Saturday 9 September 2018

 Unexpected Treasures

Unexpected Treasures

I set out late and did what ‘Mad dogs and English’ do, tried to walk in the mid-day sun, which might of been fine except I didn’t have hat or much of a map. I set out to walk to the Roman aqueduct and Peña Cortada (which might translate as Painful Cut). I notice walking through town that many garage doors are open and inside are small tractors and ride-on cultivators - Sunday is gardening day.

 A Chelva Fountain, an old spring and irrigation pond and La Torrecilla- a Medieval Moorish Fortification. 

A Chelva Fountain, an old spring and irrigation pond and La Torrecilla- a Medieval Moorish Fortification. 

I walked for about 20 minutes through town, past a roundabout, petrol garage, builder’s merchants and Municipal Depot until I found a track marked Service Access and took that! Immediately I was in another world of olive groves, an old irrigation pond and cicadas. It’s a slow climb and I eventually see signs of the Peña Cortada and dramatic views of the Medieval Moorish fortified tower of La Torrecilla.

 The walnuts are almost ripe, a horse shoe embedded in the concrete track, sluice gates seem to be dedicated to S. Garcia and an interesting fence post. 

The walnuts are almost ripe, a horse shoe embedded in the concrete track, sluice gates seem to be dedicated to S. Garcia and an interesting fence post. 

After about 50 minutes I decide that it’s a much longer walk than I anticipated and decide to turn back; it’s too hot, but try to find the path up to the Tower - no luck there either! I return home following the route Ben and Helma showed me on the first morning’s walk, but get very lost in amongst irrigation ditches and wild fig and pomegranate trees and eventually have to retrace my steps to the petrol garage roundabout and walk into town from there. A frustrating outing but still full of visual treasures. Tomorrow I will be more prepared.

 Lost

Lost

After a siesta I return to the studio and blog writing, then open a nice bottle of local red wine served with sepia (cuttle-fish) and green beans.

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MARKET DAY

DAY 8 Saturday 8 September 2018

 Market Day in the Plaza Mayor

Market Day in the Plaza Mayor

I could smell the peach stall metres off; stacked high in black crates, he sold nothing else and the  pears on the adjacent stall added to the delicious aroma. I bought six enormous peaches and moved on to the cheese stall and bought what the Basque stall-owner described as ‘suave’ cheese, garden tomatoes and beans from a little old lady and a big bunch of grapes.

 The cheese stall is owned by a Basque (this is definitely a hard cheese),  Horno Panaderia has a wood-fired oven and the fishmonger.

The cheese stall is owned by a Basque (this is definitely a hard cheese),  Horno Panaderia has a wood-fired oven and the fishmonger.

Then to the fishmonger to buy mussels and sepia (cuttlefish), a loaf from the baker and a spinach pasty for breakfast - I’ll definitely get more of those. The lemon and coconut macaroons are good too.

Food isn’t so cheap here especially cheese, but you can buy a bottle of wine for 1.50 Euros. Fruit and vegetables are cheaper and more ‘authentic’ looking than in the UK and very fresh. I didn’t know pears could smell so delicious and I’ve given up buying peaches altogether in supermarkets.

 My fragrant fruit bowl.

My fragrant fruit bowl.

A couple of small boys on bicycles stopped to warn me there was going to be rain and everyone was bracing themselves for a storm, but it didn’t amount to more than a few drops at lunchtime. On my way to the supermarket I met the couple from Bath and had a coffee in the Square.

 Pimiento, pepino, calabacines y tomates

Pimiento, pepino, calabacines y tomates

I spend some time in the studio, several Naiads (I’m beginning to feel I should stop printing them but they keep turning up) and figs from my garden.

 A few of the Naiads

A few of the Naiads

I’m most excited by 'Crimson Lady' and think she has a  lot of potential; scale-insects are not known for their good looks.

 Figs from my garden; best with yoghurt and local honey.

Figs from my garden; best with yoghurt and local honey.

KERMES OAKS

DAY 7 Friday 7 September 2018


 Coffee in the garden

Coffee in the garden

Coffee in the garden and a social visit to Betty the dog who lives next door, is a good way to start the day.

 ‘The Kindness of Strangers’: the gift of 5L of extra-virgin organic olive oil. (Mono-print on paper).

‘The Kindness of Strangers’: the gift of 5L of extra-virgin organic olive oil. (Mono-print on paper).

After a spell in the studio I go for a walk in search of the Fuente de Berra. It says it’s 2.4Km from the Chelva River and after a steep climb with lovely views back to Chelva, I reach an expansive elevated plain of olive groves with a few almond and Carob trees.

  Views across the valley to Chelva and a friend I met on the way... 

 Views across the valley to Chelva and a friend I met on the way... 

The sound of flowing water is ever present, but when I reach the plateau, apart from the breeze it’s silent. I’ve left the sound of water in the irrigation ditches behind. I didn’t find the spring, even though I walked much further than 2.4 Km, but the Ermita San Cristobal perched on a hill looks a nice walk.

I notice low evergreen bushes with small dark holly-like leaves, by the path. I look more carefully and realise they have large acorns in prickly cups. What’s this?

 Kermes Oak (Quercus coccifera) is a favourite food of the cochineal beetle which was/is a source of Crimson dye or Kermes Carmine. 

Kermes Oak (Quercus coccifera) is a favourite food of the cochineal beetle which was/is a source of Crimson dye or Kermes Carmine. 

I return home as dusk falls and discover, courtesy of Wikipedia, that they are indeed a species of oak; Kermes Oak (Q. coccifera). A favourite food of a species of female scale-insect that was/is used to make Crimson dye or cochineal. Prickly Pear cactus is also a favourite food of a different species of South American cochineal beetle. It takes 80-100,000 insects to make one kilogram of dye!

So it looks like there’s a new colour to add to my site-specific palette. Crimson.

One problem. I don’t have Crimson paint  - this is Madder Red mixed with Burnt Sienna and Mars Yellow matched off the Internet!

   Crimson Lady . Mono-print on paper. (42x59cms)   

 Crimson Lady. Mono-print on paper. (42x59cms)

 

NIGHT WALK

DAY 6 Thursday 6 September 2018


 A warm evening to explore the town after dark. Neighbours sit out in the streets and children play in the Town Square.

A warm evening to explore the town after dark. Neighbours sit out in the streets and children play in the Town Square.

I met up with a couple from Bath, an artist and her photographer partner for coffee in town in the morning and swapped stories. They have been coming here for 4 years and are renting a house around the corner in the Old Jewish Quarter. I inadvertently chose a cake which I thought was made of almonds, but was actually called ‘Pork-Fat Cake’ - delicious, but not remotely vegetarian. I’m hanging loose about eating meat in Spain… it’s bound to happen!

On my way home I see that the fish shop is open and buy three baby cod; there’s something jewel-like about them with fine red markings on the face. 

 Then over the road to the bakers; it’s late and there’s not much left - just a few round flat loaves. In the back is the wood-burning oven with its long paddle. The baker is a young man who tells me that he follows his father and grandfather and that the oven is more than 200 years old. He puts in a piece of paper to reignite the fire... the kindness of strangers.

Then over the road to the bakers; it’s late and there’s not much left - just a few round flat loaves. In the back is the wood-burning oven with its long paddle. The baker is a young man who tells me that he follows his father and grandfather and that the oven is more than 200 years old. He puts in a piece of paper to reignite the fire... the kindness of strangers.

I return home with a loaf and fishes for lunch. 

 The wood burning oven is more than 200 years old. 

The wood burning oven is more than 200 years old. 

After lunch I go up to the studio; some more prints of the Kindness of Strangers; tomatoes from Helma’s garden and a jar of unrefined honey- the best ever; it still retains the aroma of the beeswax. I add some bridges to the Turia flood print.

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Then when it’s cooler I walk to the River - it’s evening and there is a family swimming in the pool. A fine medieval bridge ‘Puenta del Realillo’ crosses the Rio del Chelva and a sign posts to Ermita de San Cristobal and Fuente de Berra up the hill; more places to explore.

 The Medieval Bridge spans a lush rock strewn valley with bamboo, reeds and willow herb. 

The Medieval Bridge spans a lush rock strewn valley with bamboo, reeds and willow herb. 

I walk home in the dark. The Plaza Mayor feels cavernous, but filled with chatter and activity. Children ride bikes around the fountain and light floods from the old people’s home in the corner of the square which is buzzing. I enjoy the stark shadows thrown across the streets by the wall-lamps and the chasms of deep blue night-sky visible between the tiled roofs.

 The plaza in the Arab Quarter is deserted; my street is a tiny alley off to the right.  

The plaza in the Arab Quarter is deserted; my street is a tiny alley off to the right.  

WASHING PLACES & SLUICE GATES

DAY 5. Wednesday 5 September 2018.

There is a thunderstorm and torrential rain in the morning and the water falls in huge drops and shoots off the edges of the tiled roofs in a dramatic fashion.

Ben and Helma treat me to the ‘Menu del Dia’ for lunch at the local restaurant: paella, calamaris and the ever popular Flam (Creme Brûlée) with a bottle of Estrella Galicia - a very nice beer that brings back memories of walking the Camino.

 El Piediera Lavadero

El Piediera Lavadero

Most of the morning is spent at the computadora and then in the afternoon I walk to three public washing places; some with lovely views over the fields.

 Lavadero del Querefil

Lavadero del Querefil

Walking back through town I notice that the irrigation channels run adjacent or under many of the streets and discharge into the gardens and almond and olive groves which are the main crops. But figs, pomegranates, oranges and vines grow in abundance. The channels are opened and closed with simple concrete or steel sluice gates that are slotted into position or lifted out as required.

 A steel sluice gate on one of the irrigation channels in the street.

A steel sluice gate on one of the irrigation channels in the street.

 A concrete sluice in my garden- though it’s seen better days!

A concrete sluice in my garden- though it’s seen better days!

In the evening I make a few prints; I’m thinking of making series of Sluices and Naiads (Water Sprits).

 The initial sluice-gate prints

The initial sluice-gate prints

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 On my way home.... a myriad of lovely objects.

On my way home.... a myriad of lovely objects.

EMPIEZO

DAY 4 Tuesday 4 September 2018

 La Playeta on the River Chelva is a local bathing spot. Families come here at weekends to eat Paella and relax.  

La Playeta on the River Chelva is a local bathing spot. Families come here at weekends to eat Paella and relax.  

A wonderful riverside walk with Ben and Helma to start the day. The Rio de Chelva (Rio Tuéjar) is a tributary of the Turia; a fast flowing river which used to serve several old mills along its course. Sadly, I think the Turia is not easily accessible; it runs in a steep gorge in the mountains to the south of here, and feeds a large reservoir and hydro-electric plants along its course. The area is known for its rock climbing so that probably rules out a visit.

En route to the Playeta we visit an American couple who are renovating an old house - a big undertaking, but already it looks lovely with an antique tiled wall behind the hooded-fireplace and an arcaded balcony with a stunning view over the valley.

 Waiting to start...

Waiting to start...

When we return I make a start in the studio. I’m making simple mono-prints off pieces of perspex using acrylic paints. This morning I’m experimenting and find, annoyingly, that I need to return to Valencia to buy better and thicker paper. Also perspex and acrylic paint are rather too smooth and featureless. But anyway I make some initial textures based on Aigua y Fang (Water and Mud) and then start on ‘The Kindness of Strangers’; the gifts I have been given: eggs and olive oil...

 Some initial mono-prints. Top. Angus y Fang Bottom. Huevos.

Some initial mono-prints. Top. Angus y Fang Bottom. Huevos.

Later, Helma gives me some local unrefined honey and vegetables from her garden. And I find some ripe figs on a tree at the bottom of my garden. More gifts for the series...

 Fresh garden vegetables for supper...

Fresh garden vegetables for supper...

In the evening I take my downing rods round to Ben and Helma’s to search for water as they tell that there is a damp patch on their chimney. Indeed it appears to flow under the chimney in the sitting room and in the kitchen too, but that must be very common round here! I’ll dowse my house tomorrow, although I’m not sure I really want to know!

 I delight in my house and garden - it’s full of interesting objects and details and the four flights of stairs will keep me fit.

I delight in my house and garden - it’s full of interesting objects and details and the four flights of stairs will keep me fit.