WITH SO MANY people visiting Pedersen’s Last Dream blog over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been in a bit of a tizz. Like a grumpy, old beachcomber, I had come never to expect callers. My corner of Blogtown could’ve been compared to an unnoteworthy cybershed in a nameless alley off an anonymous backstreet in a remote pueblo in Blogland at the farthest end of the circle comprising the outer orbit of Blogdom. A long-forgotten place, where hardly anyone went. Except when lost, or by mistake.
But I hadn’t bargained for the band of intrepid explorers, who seem to make up the editorial department of WordPress. Seems they’re only too keen to venture out into blog wilderness in search of blogs where only a few fearless bloggers dare roam. They delight in discovering faraway outposts in Outer Blogosphere nobody else has even heard of, let alone been. And so was I found. My article on Edvard Munch was Freshly Pressed.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, my small blog seemed the ‘in’ place for hundreds of bloggers to gather. Many eager to chat and exchange thoughts.
This welcome attention meant replying to comments and checking out follower’s sites. It amazes me just how much creativity is out there. Nevertheless, though well worth the effort, it still takes time. I’m used to replying to a few regular commentators, here and there, in numbers I can count on a crab claw. People like Noeleen at WordsFallFromMyEyes, Sam Flowers at blogrestandplay and Ritika Upadhyay at Le blog. Although I can’t quite count all three on one crab claw
Hardly had I got over that when I was thrown into the spotlight once more by Reflections in a Fjord being chosen as a Weekend Read. If I’m not careful, I’ll start being blasé about so much recognition. “Not now, darling, I’m having my cuticles surgically aligned”. Already well behind in my promise to post a new installment of the novel Pedersen’s Last Dream each month, another tizz ensued. Time to do something.
What better moment to pretend I have nothing better to do than go for a walk on the beach. It would clear my head of a lot of stuff that accumulates in empty heads, which I could fill with ideas on Pedersen.
Across the river to the south of Conil de la Frontera there’s a huge slice of sand leading to the small pueblo of El Palmar, a favourite for surfers off-season. It’s never crowded even at the height of summer and, more often than not, empty most of the rest of the year. With sea on one side of the beach and a nature reserve on the other nobody’s selling ice cream.
I love deserted beaches. I like driftwood, shells, stones and examining all the other bits the sea washes onto the shore. Once I came across the pimpish-looking right shoe in the photo. You have to wonder how on earth it got there. To my eyes, it looks like it fell straight from a shelf of a shop in Brooklyn, into the Atlantic Ocean, and floated over to Spain. Must be a story behind that for someone.
When you think about it, beaches are the only places where the scenery gets washed twice a day, every day. One lot of shells, stones, sand and driftwood is washed away by the tides only to be replaced by another lot. Or just cleaned and rearranged. But there are other things that come in.
Yesterday a huge, dead tuna had washed up. Almost two metres from its extended lower lip to tip of its tail, a small gang of stroppy, little flies were busy chewing at it before the tide could take it away again. They weren’t making much of a dent.
For those who don’t realise how big tuna come that’s my English, size 8, loafer posed next to its mouth.
Once I discovered a huge turtle dead, another time a dog. Mostly I find interesting bits of driftwood, shells and stones.
There have been people living in Andalusia since some of the first Africans emerged out of Africa by way of the Straits of Gibraltar. You can see the blue smudge of Morocco on the horizon from the beach here most clear days. And at night it’s possible to view the lights of Tangiers from the upper floors of many houses in the higher parts of town.
Conil de las Frontera dates back to Phoenician times, 1500 BC. Famed for the quality of its tuna the world over, local fishermen catch tuna using the ancient method known as the almadraba introduced by the Moors. Each spring, a huge trap involving a maze of nets leading to a central pool called a copo is set within sight of the beach. When the floor of the net is raised the tuna are slaughtered.
The Romans invaded the Iberian peninsula in 206 BC to stop the Carthagians getting hold of it. Some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Spain are just down the coast from Conil in Bollonia, or Baelo Claudia, as it was known in Roman times. Although no visible signs of Roman occupation remain in Conil, they are known to have lived in the pueblo. There are signs they made popular fish paste called garum here. Used as a condiment throughout the Roman Empire it was made from the fermented entrails of tuna and other fish.
Many condemn the almadraba method of trapping and slaughtering tuna as cruel. Nevertheless, it is not the local fishermen with their small fishing boats who have decimated the tuna population almost to the point of extinction, but bigger boats from other parts.
One of the joys of this part of the year in Andalusia is to see the wild flowers. The wettest winter on record has resulted in huge numbers, some more than two metres high. The path between the nature reserve and beach looks as though a gardener has carefully sown seeds on the borders to tend them throughout winter.
I walked to the Castilnovo tower about halfway between Conil and El Palmar. On such a sunny day there were quite a few out for a stroll along the water’s edge, as gentle waves lapped the shore.
The watchtower was one of a series built in the Middle Ages as part of a defence system to warn and protect the town from pirates and invading forces. Only two others remain, Torre de Guzman in the centre of Conil, which once formed part of a castle, and Torre Roche.
On October 21st 1805 it would’ve provided an excellent vantage point to view the Battle of Trafalgar, where Admiral Nelson defeated the combined French and Spanish fleets. Most of the population Conil would’ve been able to see and hear something, as Cabo Trafalgar is at Los Caños, not much more than ten miles away.
Two hundred year later, October 21st 2005, the bicentenary was celebrated in great Andalusian style. Local history re-enactment societies dressed up in uniforms of the three nations at the battle attended, to the obvious bemusement – and isolated pockets of resentment – knots of patriotic Brits displayed. Outnumbered by crowds of happy Spaniards, out for the day, there were definitely Brits present who still believe they should have an empire, and part of it should be Trafalgar. You could be forgiven for thinking they expected the commemoration be an exclusively British thing. Made me smile. I was there to take some photos.
With the midday sun getting hot, it was with some reluctance I had to face the fact it was time to head back. Too busy soaking up the natural beauty, with my head darting all over the place, I’d hardly given Pedersen’s Last Dream a thought. Still, the brain clear of most detritus that collects from spending too much time indoors, perhaps I could get down to the task of editing. For the followers who have shown some interest, I’ll be posting another bit any time soon.