It’s raining. Goodness knows the ground needs it. I can hear a gardener talking with his client in one of the neighbours’ gardens. I expect he’s explaining why he can’t do much today. One should be sympathetic, it was a fine day yesterday and the day before and the day before that and so on. Still, the grass will enjoy one more day of blowing in the breeze before it receives another no.1 cut. I don’t water my grass, or take any particular care of it. It spends the summer brown and bristling around the bare patches where the dogs run back and forth to the gate or where they have attempted to reach Australia by digging. But here’s the thing, this morning it’s as green as Ireland.
The sky really is as grey as lead: no point in complaining. Change is good, they say don’t they? A change is as good as a rest, even. I suppose it is. But I’ll never get sick of seeing the azure, cerulean, heavenly blue skies that are more common here, when the sun is so bright even a blind man can see for miles.

Reflections on a Short Story…

A very odd thing, came across this which I wrote for a creative writing course. It’s some reflections on a short-story I wrote for assessment. This kind of reflection was an integral part of the assignment. Would it make you read the story, or would you run a mile?

            Exercise 5.1 threw up a description of a ‘noirish’- if slightly offbeat – private detective’s office. I wanted this scene to be a pivotal point in a story. Eventually I decided to work backwards from it. Why would someone go to a ‘Psychic Dectective’? To find a ghost?
            Seville is a great place for a mystery. History and the modern collide every day literally and metaphorically. The street names, as in most of Andalucia, can be as unashamedly named after Illusion, Happiness or Dreams, as a local notable.
            I chose first person narration, a style-used in most of the novels of the type admired by the narrator. Four drafts chopped down the ‘telegraph poles’ along the route of the story, as advised in the coursebook .* The teacher turned bookseller is based on a Spanish high-school teacher I actually met in Seville. Expecting talk about Spanish literature, I heard about a fascination for Chandler. The narrator’s lottery win and bookshop are just a bit of wish fulfilment, a sort of ‘write what you’d like to know’ and was a reshaping of a 250 word fragment from my notebook.
            I chose to set the time period of the story at six months after I conceived the outline plot; this may be a little too long for a short story. I kept much of the dialogue to a minimum, to move the story along. I did try to use dialogue at key points in the narrative: Leonore’s first appearance, writing her name and number on the card and, of course, the ending. This assignment has made me more aware than ever that I seem to be an instinctive writer, and I will have to be more disciplined when it comes to the ECA.
            The ‘femme fatale’ is a stock figure in this kind of story, and I found it hard to avoid a stereotype, although the paperback’s illustration must be one. Her name is from Poe, he used it in an eponymous poem and in The Raven1, wherein a quite different visitor pays a call on someone lost in books.
            I must confess to being influenced by books like The Dumas Club (Reverte),2  – whose writer’s name I stole for the Psychic Detective – which is about a hunt for a very different book.  Originally the book was going to be a pure plot device. However, when I decided on the ending, that was no longer strictly true.
            There had to be a reason to find such an unprepossessing book. One early draft had Franco writing it! Too surreal an idea! So, of course, Spain’s most famous surrealist made his appearance. Dali is a controversial figure for many reasons, but the one time communist did have close associations with Franco. According to one Spanish political commentator, Navarro (2003), Dalí sent telegrams to Franco, ‘praising him for signing death warrants for political prisoners.’ 3  

            When the woman disappeared, I decided the book would turn up. But how? I experimented with a mysterious parcel posted from somewhere exotic. But then I hit on the idea of it being found by someone who couldn’t read. Once Curro couldn’t read, the ending, of course, was easy. 

Well? Would you read it?



1. Public Domain Google Library

2. Peréz-Reverte, A.    [1999] (1993)El Club Dumas Alfaguara, Spain 1999

3. Navarro, V (2003) ‘The Jackboot of Dada, Salvador Dali, Fascist’ Counterpunch

    (On-line) available from http://www.counterpunch.org/navarro12062003.html

    [Posted 06/12/2003; Accessed 24/12/2007]

An Inordinate Number of Spoons

Among the bric-a-brac, oddities and junk on offer at the local mercadillo, someone always has a stall with antique irons, rusted weather vanes and old cutlery. Every flea-market is the same. There will be boxy TV sets  too bulky for the modern Andalucian flat and townhouse. There will be mobile phones and digital cameras of dubious provenance. There will be incomplete sets of golf clubs and old-fashioned skis and barely-used cross-trainers. A man – it is always a man – will have a stall full of pirate DVDs, many will be pornographic. Or rather, two men will each have their own such stall; one British and one Andalucian. Moroccans will sell leather goods and second hand clothes, Danes and Dutch will sell herbs and potted plants. There might be a few stalls selling hand-made jewellery. Some of it will be beautiful and some not. Those stalls selling second hand jewellery will be the saddest of all. Wedding rings and engraved watches whose owners will most likely have died, unaware that their treasures are being picked over by the mercadillo magpies.  And the Germans will come, look at all the goods on display and buy nothing at all, except perhaps a beer in a nearby bar.
Yet all over Andalucia, from Benalmadena, through Fuengirola, all the way to Estepona; from inland Alora to Alhaurin, people flock to these flea-markets. Weekdays or weekends, it matters not, still they come. On the Costa proper, whether you are in Nerja or Nueva Andalucia, the tourists will visit these markets. They will buy stuffed donkeys or genuine Chinese sombreros – a kind of hat only seen in Spain in the days when Clint Eastwood was filming Spaghetti Westerns in Almeria. I guess Paella Western doesn’t have the same ring. Those tourists that have little girls in tow will buy flamenco dresses. These may also have been made in oriental sweat-shops.  
Those stalls with the irons, weather vanes and cutlery are often not actually stalls at all. Their wares may be laid out higgledy-piggledy on a large tarpaulin. Is it a reflection of the Andalucian diet that there are an inordinate number of spoons?