While Spring officially started at the beginning of the month back home in Ireland, in Spain we are still in the middle of winter, with the next season only set to start in another month on the 21st of March.
It is, I admit, the height of skiing season, but even here, the daffodils are shooting up and will soon burst buds, the crocuses in the parks are spotting the grass, and I even saw a few daisy and dandelions the other day. The trees are mostly still bare, but showers of catkins have popped out on a few.
Mostly, though, you can just smell it. The air is different. Despite the snow that we had last week, there’s a feeling of spring that even humans living in a city still experience.
Spring is here, as far as I am concerned.
And summer isn’t far behind. For I saw the bats take their first flight of the year and it reminded me of a poem I wrote last year on the subject of signs of summer, more than spring. It’s perhaps a little premature to be thinking about butterflies and bees, but since I haven’t posted a poem in a while, here it is.
Signs of Summer
There are many signs of summer coming, here,
Starting perhaps with cuckoo calls and swallow sighting
And the return of the swifts, or
The first flight of the bats at twilight,
The scent of honeysuckle through open balconies and
The abundance of butterflies on the garden lavender,
Some are specific to Spain, like closing the blinds
Against sunlight to keep the house cool, and
Sleeping with the windows open all night
Pouring water to fill the swimming pool and others
Seen only in this city: setting up the tombola,
Putting the fences around the flowers in the park
In preparation for the festivals and digging up
The road to get it ready for the running of the bulls,
And lastly, putting up with the stench of piss
Upon opening up the street door every morning.
The cranes started passing over Pamplona yesterday evening.
They were chased by the rain that came in overnight. The first in weeks.
Autumn has thus officially started.
And hopefully also this means the end of the fire season for this year.
While Ireland braced for an almost unheard of hurricane in the North Atlantic, in northern Spain and Portugal, forest fires were killing even more people than Ophelia killed.
There were dozens burning over the weekend and until Tuesday, when the rains helped to finally extinguish them.
Unlike hurricanes, though, which are terrible, and indirectly related to man’s activities, these forest fires were only wild in the sense of the untamed destruction they could wreak. They were not natural. They were man made, purposefully started, and repeatedly so.
After so many deaths, there are now questions being asked of politicians as to how these arsonists can be stopped. Spanish news has little else, other that the Catalan situation – politics and fraud, even football has been put in the background by the terrible scenes of people trying to escape burning villages only having to turn back as the roads are flanked with flames, and others park inside a motorway tunnel to wait rescue, or let the fires pass overhead.
Because these fires have been a part of summer in places like Galicia for years. As soon as the weather dries, huge tracts of forests go up there. All directly caused by humans and usually set intentionally, with a few the result of stupidity and neglect.
The people of Portugal are naturally outraged, after a summer of huge fires has been followed by an autumn death toll almost as terrible, with dozens of people claimed by the flames.
The perpetrators must be caught and jailed for their murders, but also, the politicians and police, if it is the case, must be held responsible for letting this situation get to this state. Why have these people not been caught for their previous fires? – because there’s no way these conflagrations were started by first-time arsonists.
Why do people go out of their way to set fires, driving along highways in the middle of the night with fireworks tied to helium balloons?
It’s clear they have nothing better to do, and they’re assholes of the highest calibre, but there must be some other, external, motivation for most of the fires. What is it? Why has it not been identified years ago and why has it not been removed?
There are forests that could burn just as badly and even more easily in other parts of Spain, so why are there not so many fires elsewhere? Galicia has 40% of all fires in the country, and half the area burnt every year for the last decade.
Surely the arsonists are spread out in a broader swath across the country. Or is there something about the mind-set of Galicians that makes them excessively prone to arson?
The gorse fires and heather fires we have seen in Ireland in recent years were all set intentionally for financial gain – the current agricultural subsidy system means that farmers make more money if there land is considered in use, even if it’s not.
Ultimately, stopping them will require a change in the EU farming subsidy system to allow land go fallow without farmers losing money.
Is there a financial motivation in Galicia and Portugal for setting huge fires?
According to Ecologists in Action, this is only the cause of a small proportion of the fires set.
What other factors are in play?
The use of fire for farming practices is permitted much more freely than elsewhere.
In most of Spain it is not permitted to light fires in camping and picnic areas and other recreational areas during times of fire risk. Not so in Galicia.
Vehicles are also allowed onto forest paths in Galicia during the summer, which is prohibited elsewhere.
AND they allow fireworks in village festivals during the summer, which is just asking for trouble.
But as I said, the summer is over.
The cranes, luckily, don’t stay long in Spain during their migration.
When they passed before on their way north I wrote this poem. Hopefully it will ease the depression of these fires. Watching the birds certainly lifts the spirit.
The Great Migration
I’ve not yet seen the Serengeti,
Nor the caribou upon the artic plains
But up above my house in the hills,
I’ve been privileged to witness
The cranes migrating, calling
Eyes aloft to observe their long
Strings streaked across the sky
Huge wing beats by the thousands,
And can’t but wonder where
Those numbers bide in other times,
(Amazed such spaces yet exist)
And where they will find abode
In other climes.
It’s been a while. It’s been busy.
But I’ve been doing a bit of writing.
I have a few poems to share, over the next few weeks, as the summer proper hits us.
Meanwhile, if you want me, I’ll be on the porch….
The House Stands Built, the Garden Lies Laid
If we needed lumber, I’d gladly go into the wood,
Cut logs and split them all afternoon.
Were there a shelf to put up, a cupboard fixed,
A picture to hang, I’ve no problem lending a hand.
Should the lawn need mowing, or the hedge trimming,
The garden path cemented, a fence erected,
Bicycle mended, stone wall constructed, a pond dug
Or a border weeded, you can count on me;
I’m always happy to go to work.
But the house is built, the garden laid,
There’s left little to do but watch the grass growing
So if you want me, I’ll be on the porch.
(This is a short video of what’s in front of said porch….)
Sometimes you see a book come out exactly at the right time.
That’s luck, perhaps, or good planning. But then, there can be a slew of books on the same subject that are all on the mark, in fashion, ready to make that hay while the sun shines, and strike the iron while it’s hot.
I’ve never been one to jump on the bandwagon. The wagon usually goes too fast for me and I end up on my arse in the dust, or worse; the mud.
Many thought it was time to write an erotic novel after Shades of Grey went viral. I didn’t, but I wrote some anyway. They haven’t lit up any lists yet.
When my first werewolf novel came out, I was asked if I wrote it in teh wake of the Twilight trilogy. I wrote it twenty years before.
At the moment I’m writing a novel concerning the illegal wildfires in Ireland during the last two Aprils and the current government’s willingness to change the law so the farmers can do what they like when it comes to the environment. So it would be best to get the novel out as soon as possible to be current. However, it’s taking longer than I thought (it always does).
At the same time, it should not matter so much because I hope that in twenty years time the novel will still have its impact, like a novel set during the AIDS crisis of the late eighties still impacts us now just as much.
The novel is on hold this summer because I’ve got another time-sensitive project on my hands – one that can’t be put off, like putting up firewood can’t be ignored if one wants to live through the winter.
Time will pass, and though I will have other chances in the future to continue this project (and will have to) it’s at a critical stage right now and I have to take advantage of the time I have right now to apply to it – something that’s a luxury which thousands of others might envy me of.
The project is a little human. A mini-me, as it were; my six-month old son.
Books, Booze and a little Boy – Be warned: the three don’t necessarily mix very well…
I’ve got him – and his older sister; at her own critical stage of development – for the summer. He’s a time-intensive creature. He will be crawling soon and I’ve already accepted the fact that he’ll do his best to wreck my house.
But it is time well invested. I’m sure he’s a quick study – already clapping hands and holding out his dodie to me, then laughing as he takes it back.
Mainly, though, the means, the brainpower to think of other projects is being sucked away. He barely gives me time to clean the house while he sleeps and prepare his purees and fruit.
Many other parents know what I’m experiencing – it’s probably light compared to some nightmares, but for a writer, at least this one, it’s easy to start projects in spare moments but hard to tie a story all together without long stretches of quiet concentration.
So I’ll not bother. I’ll have a rest – as far as that goes – a holiday. I’ll go back to my books – the long list of novel spines staring at me from my bookshelves – and relax my brain. And I’ll read aloud, to let my son listen to the rhythm of one of his native tongues.
The heat here disappeared and a storm saw the start of the school year last night but the next festival in Pamplona is already setting up…
The city of Pamplona used to be divided into three Burgos. This is mine.
The celebration of the privilge of the union of these three (592 years ago) takes place on the 8th of Sept. Small San Fermin, or San Fermin txikito takes place at the end of September.
For me, September started with dental surgery, but I’ll save you the photos of that…
Anyway, ’twas a good summer.
Apart from sitting on the beach and visiting home, I watched three seasons of Mad Men, read half of MR James’s Ghost stories, and all of Lonesome Dove, wrote a novella, and almost all of a novel (still not ready for submission, albeit) I put on a few kilos, saw several species of raptors every day and a few foxes and roe deer around, but got few decent photos, made a saw horse (as well as cut and constructed a few walls of logs) and mounted a headboard in the village house.
What I haven’t done is write many blog posts, but I hope to rectify that this autumn..
I did scribbled a few more poems, one about mountain biking, which I didn’t do enough of this year, really – sticking to my desk instead.
Here are a few more of these…. two are inspired by having a child ask the questions we never got good answers to in our day… at least I didn’t.
Along Hallowed Paths
Old friends we seldom saw
Except in photos or in a bar,
But who shared a hobby, such as
Biking or hiking, where we are alone,
Never enter our thoughts upon the
Mountain; only when we return to recount.
However, now they are gone from those
Groups in the bar relating their days in
The saddle, their face comes to mind any time
We sit upon a mountain bike, it seems,
Every crazy climb and mental descent,
Every path picked over rocks and
Gravel track or long asphalt road
Through fields and forests
Is hallowed ground.
Dogs don’t go to Heaven
They told me dogs don’t go to Heaven.
If so, then much less the wolf,
Nor would the fleet deer flee.
If there are no dogs allowed,
Then neither birds nor bumblebees
Enter, I’m sure. Who visits flowers, then?
None need, for they are also absent.
Mountains there are equally bare
Of the forest that covers the one before me.
When they tell me of Heaven, I can hardly
Imagine how the water flows and falls there,
Or why one would swim in the wide blue sea
Without a fish to see.
They tell me
Dogs don’t go to heaven, so I’ve decided
That’s not somewhere I’d for ever want to be.
Thoughts on Obvious Questions Reappearing as a Parent
Why did Cinderella have to go home by midnight anyway?
What kind of fairy godmother gives a taste only to take away?
Was it because young ladies do not linger out all night?
Yet for the rest the party was in full swing when she took flight.
Control and strict rule sets of the time seems to be at base,
For readers to learn early how a suitor should give chase
And girls be given freedom only in small doses, lest
They reject the men who’d take them and clutch it to their chest.
The Poplars and the Church Tower
The church tower of Olleta has stood five centuries
In the fork between the river and the gulley;
The row of poplar trees four fewer, but for forty
Years now have stood a few feet taller; a monument
Of Nature making the village square shadier.
But they won’t stand longer,
For they’re coming down this week;
Some to make room for renovations to the church wall,
Lest it fall in ruins – after all, ’twasn’t built to last this long –
And the rest to return the view
Of the sun-drenched sandstone
From before it was shielded by such tall trees;
Proving man prefers to gaze upon
The wonder of his own creation.
As you most probably already know, today my second novel, Five Days on Ballyboy Beach is out!
To celebrate, I am being interviewed on the Heart of Fiction blog, and for everyone who wants to have a chance to win a free copy all you need to do is leave your name and email address in the comments (you can comment, too!).
I’ll be hosted on a few other blogs during the week where you can read bits and pieces of what it’s all about (don’t want to give away too much, as it’s that kind of book you just have to get into and see where it takes you – hence the cover image ) and some excerpts…
Hope you enjoy!
So August wasn’t so treacherous this year. I got the final edits and cover art for my second novel, Five Days on Ballyboy Beach ready for its release on the 19th, I did some more rewriting of a novella and had it accepted for publication in the new year with Tirgearr Publishing, and I wrote a short story based on my safari in South Africa last year, called At Last Light on the Sage Flats, which will be the title story to a collection of short stories I’m putting together for the end of this year. Oh, I finished that first draft of The Ecology of Lonesomeness, too.
I also started the sequel to Leaving the Pack – not quite sure of the title yet, but the working title is Leading the Pack.
And I am three-quarters way through reading The Count of Monte Cristo, which I have had on my shelf for about twelve years! I didn’t get around to season five of Breaking Bad yet, though – but the autumn is coming (feels like it even here, too – we didn’t have what you’d call a Spanish summer this year), so I’ll get to that, when I have a second draft done of Lonesomeness….
Meanwhile, here is one of the few poems I had a chance to finish, about doing very little….
Getting Old, Slowly
Along the ridge a row of windmills go slowly round.
You can hear them when the wind turns south.
Twenty-five years they’ve ringed the valley
And show no sign they’re soon to fall.
Similarly, we inhabitants stand around,
Eating from our gardens here, seasonally
Watching flight of swallows and their fellows,
Observing numbers (often) ebb and (seldom) flow,
Grass get cut instead of grazed and oak trees grow tall,
New abodes are built and others crumble to the ground,
Sitting upon a porch of an evening, the sky yet
As wonderful as youth, and starry as can still get,
Achieving only that act of getting old slowly.
This is the cover of my second novel, published 19th September 2014 – I don’t want to reveal too much about what the plot is – best to just follow the path and see where it ends up…
You can read some of the reviews on the Tirgearr page, or here on this website:
Welcome to “A Summer for Love Blog-Hop!”
First of all, I need to let you know that there are….
(6) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Cards
Comment with your name and email to be entered into the Grand Prize drawing. Comments without name and email will not be counted. Commenting on each and every stop will increase your chances of winning.
Winners for the (6) Grand Prizes will be drawn and announced on THE ROMANCE TROUPE blog by June 10th.
And, if you comment below on this post, you will be in a draw to with a copy of my own latest paranormal romance, Leaving the Pack!
“Summer love” seems like a phrase so well joined it’s a sin to separate them: like “ice cold”; “lightening fast”; “white hot;” yet with a hint, perhaps, of transience.
In the three novels I’ve written so far where characters fall in love, all have fallen during summer. My next novel, Five Days on Ballyboy Beach (just accepted for publication with Tirgearr Publishing!), is basically the story of a young man realizing he’s falling in love with his best friend over the course of a summer camping holiday.
The heat and sunshine, the cool drinks, the scant clothing and tanned skin (unless you’re Irish!) all make for thoughts of love and lust to come bubbling up from within one’s body.
Sometimes summer is wet, though, with thunderstorms and downpours. The following scene takes place during one such downpour, and afterwards, when the evening sun makes the puddles steam. It’s an excerpt from the recently published Leaving the Pack, when the two main characters are still getting to know one another and have arranged to meet by the beach:
The rain started as Susan made her way to the coast that evening. The clouds, building up all day and brooding darkly above the mountains, swept over the city and sea on a fierce, sudden wind out of the north, bringing the night with them. A number of enormous bolts, shooting down out of the black mass to the buildings and into the boiling water, followed by thunder to make men flinch and dogs cower, were the prelude to a downpour of seemingly biblical proportions. The water gullied down the streets, bringing the traffic to an almost complete halt. The bus crawled along for another half an hour, the driver’s foot forever on the brake as the cars in front continually stopped. Susan felt herself get irritated. She was going to be very late meeting Paul. It would have been quicker to walk, but the rain outside would have drenched her instantly. The very force of the drops would have plastered her light jacket to her skin and the water rebounding off the ground and puddles would have saturated the rest of her body. In some places, where the accumulated litter and rubbish of the city had clogged the drains, there were veritable ponds to cross and even the cars had to take runs at them. She took deep breaths and told herself it was fashionable for a lady to be late.
Visiting her mother had been good. She had recognized Susan and they’d had a pleasant conversation. The lights in the elder woman’s eyes appeared distant however, as if she were talking from a different epoch, but nevertheless, just as she was going, Susan told her about Paul. Her mother had seemed pleased, but told her she was a bit young to be going out with boys, she’d plenty of time for that and should be studying hard. Susan had smiled and agreed, wondering at the same time if the relationship was really serious and deciding that it was too early to know.
The bar – a wide, low-roofed room with some tables around the edges and a view out over the water – was heaving. The rain had driven the masses from the beach and half of them seemed to have taken refuge here. They would be trapped there in their shorts and t-shirts, miniskirts and beach tops until the rain ceased or at least eased and the floods abated. When she walked into the bar, however, she saw Paul immediately. He didn’t notice her arrive, and for a few seconds she just watched him from the doorway: standing quite alone in the centre of the room where there were fewer people. It didn’t seem to bother him at all. He didn’t look out of place, like you sometimes see people and would have said to your friends: ‘Hey, look at the loner,’ if you’d been back in your teens. It was as if nobody knew he was really there: a mere observer, a step back from the rest of the bar; just standing there watching everyone with an enigmatic smile on his face, as if he’d seen all this before, was appreciating a play for the second time.
To her, however, it was impossible not to notice him. She would have been less surprised to see him in same spot telling jokes or relating a story to an enraptured audience. His aura seemed to fill the air around him, swelling his being until it was the kernel of the room, the core around which everything else revolved.
As she looked at him, she felt that this was a man who could do anything he had a mind to do, who was strong enough to make a decision and stick to it in the face of any opposition. He knew his mind and was not afraid to go with how he saw things, despite what others might think, could take seemingly impossible things and make them his own. It had been a long time since she had known a man like that, and she had often wondered if she would ever encounter another.
Paul turned suddenly towards her and caught her eye smiling broadly. It almost seemed as if he had known she was there all the time, and she was a little taken aback; her gut clenched the way it had when they had first met. She grinned back, then went over and embraced him.
“Sorry I’m so late. What a nightmare!”
“No problem. I was just doing a little people-watching.”
“So I see – you look quite the anthropologist watching a tribal dance.”
He laughed and nodded. “Not far off, not far off.”
They got some drinks and sat down in a quiet corner where a young couple had just left to brave the rain, bored and whining kids in tow. Susan noticed that Paul was carrying a small rucksack. She wondered what he had it for, but decided to wait and find out rather than ask directly. A part of her hoped it was an overnight bag, for she longed to spend the night with him again. The tiny piece or her which took offence at his presumptuousness was silenced by the rest, remembering that she had invited him into her house, and had done it just once.
“How was your mother?” asked Paul.
Susan shrugged slightly before nodding. “Good. She recognized me, and we had a good chat.”
“That sounds great. Did you tell her you met the man of your dreams?”
Susan smiled softly. She was not sure why, but she decided to lie, not really ready to reveal how much she believed that herself. “I didn’t. I’m not sure how old she thought I was, so I didn’t want to upset her.”
Paul didn’t reply, but took her hand and squeezed it softly.
She felt bad then. A panicked thought shot through her mind that he could see through her childish deception, but there was nothing in his expression to suggest that. She smiled more brightly at him, brushing his face with her hand. “I told the nurse, though, and she was delighted.”
Paul laughed and moved his hand to her knee, which he squeezed harder. “Was she now?” he asked as he kissed her on the lips.
They had some more drinks, while outside the torrent subsided. The clouds dispersed, quickly whipped south by the strong wind and the last rays of the day broke through. Once the rain ceased, the bar emptied as the tourists made for their hotels to change and spend the hours of darkness in the restaurants and clubs nearer the city centre. Susan and Paul also left, walking the promenade that separated the beach from the coast road. It was a balmy evening, the dying sun making an effort to evaporate the puddles of standing water, raising the humidity again. They strolled towards Chawni Point, jutting into the sea between them and the river, just another couple among many others doing likewise. The clouds had retreated to the horizon where they hung red across the sky as the glowing sun set, like galloping horses on the edge of a plain, circling some compelling predator. Soon after, the lamps along the sea wall came on and they kept walking as the moon rose above the clouds and poured its argent life across the ocean.
When they reached the Point, they continued walking around it and stopped at a pub that faced the sea on the eastern tip. The bar was a favorite of both strollers and bikers, which made a strange but agreeable blend. Susan came here now and then herself, and it was as full as it always was. They took their drinks outside and sat on the sea wall in the mild evening breeze, gazing at the waning silver disc reflected across the oily water. The satellite seemed to seep life directly into Paul’s eyes, so brightly did they glow in the gloom. The hot passion of before had not returned, and she wondered if it would disappear with the moon each month. However, it was replaced with something else, something more precious to her for being less tangible. She felt that her life would be like the night sky without the resplendence of that satellite, should Paul retreat his presence. She would be without meaning, without life, were he to suddenly disappear. The thought gave her a slight surge of fear, but that fear gave way to something else as she recognized it for what it was: love; the worry that someone she needed would not need her in return. Her heart soared tentatively in this private revelation, glad it had at last encountered this mysterious sensation, but amazed at its abruptness, its sudden evolution. She felt an urge to reveal it then and there, to make her declaration of love in the pearly luminescence, above the vermeil waves, but quelled it cruelly. Reluctant to show her vulnerability, despite its potential luxury, she had not gotten to this pearl-drenched headland by falling at anyone’s feet and would walk away from it as proud as she had arrived, arm in arm with the man whose very skin seeped steel. She would carry her concern untended until ready to tell him the true depth of her feelings and presumed it was an anxiety shared by all, a trepidation that never quite left. Susan wondered if the moon depended upon the night as much as the night depended on the moon, in the infinite dance of the earth and its satellite, and she felt the silver light fill her own being, not directly, but through his luminous eyes. After midnight, they continued westwards past the southern part of the harbor, in which most of the smaller private crafts were moored, and back into the city, where they caught a taxi back to her flat once more.
There is another excerpt of this novel on my author page at Tirgearr Publishing and you can find others dotted around the blog tour I did in May, the links to which are down below on this website.
Don’t forget to leave a quick comment (with your name and email included) to be in the draw for a free copy…(you have to scroll right down to the bottom of this page.)