Archive for April, 2012


bumbushkagwcom 224x300 ANOTHER DOGG



Dogs are like the rest of us; they grow old and die, so from time to time you have to get new ones. For any number of reasons it’s men who tend to pop their clogs before women… I wonder if, and where, the Wife will look for a replacement for me. For a new dog though, we go to Albolote. There’s a refuge there, a huge compound that takes in about three hundred dogs. They don’t put them down if nobody comes to adopt them; they – the team of heroic and selfless volunteers who run the place – just keep on looking after them, feeding them and walking them. The staff are paid nothing at all and the whole thing runs on a charitable foundation. Anyway the place is absolutely full; there’s room for not one dog more, and as a consequence of the economic troubles, there are ever more dogs being abandoned. Spain is a land of abandoned dogs and it’s getting worse.

On Thursday we went to fetch Mami (their name), a big white Mastín that the Wife had seen on their website. She is about five years old and big and affectionate and fairly recently abandoned. Since Thursday she lives with us on the farm, with Bumble, and Bao, who also came from Albolote. The first couple of days we walked her up the river on a lead… she might have done a bunk and tried to make it back to Albolote. But she seems to know the score now and is terrified of the sheep, so now we let her run free.

To my mind it’s hard to imagine anything more pleasurable than watching a creature that has been maltreated, abandoned or confined in a concrete pen, as it starts to understand that it now has the freedom of the countryside. The expression of happiness on their faces and tails as they race up and down the river, sniffing the things that dogs like to sniff, works its way deep into your heart. I like to have a dog along when I go walking because it seems to me that they manifest pleasure in the most extraordinary way, and redistribute it to anyone with eyes to see, through their tails. So, if you want a dog to accompany you and fill your solitary walking with joy, or lie contentedly by your feet before the fire, don’t waste good money on expensive pedigree dogs; these creatures need you. Give Albolote a go.

Of course we had to change the name, as Mami doesn’t begin with a B. She’s Babouschka now, which is a bit of a mouthful, but nice.

babushka nosecomp 300x224 ANOTHER DOGG

BABOUSCHKA (Shepherds cut the ears to thwart ticks)





The picture represents, believe it or not, a salad we had for lunch yesterday. People are astonished: ‘Eaugh, surely you can’t eat flowers,’ they say.

Well you can, and although it’s a bit like munching through a pile of weeds, it’s far from disagreeable, and I’m sure there are innumerable subtle benefits to be had from the eating of flowers. It’s worth it anyway in my opinion simply for the beauty of it. It doesn’t matter what it tastes like so long as it looks good… and you can always sex a salad up with a skilled hand in the dressing department.

I suppose I take a perverse pleasure in eating things that are considered unorthodox. What I love best is kidneys and livers, hearts, balls and brains, all of which are as good as the sweetest and tenderest meat. Should you want to dip into this stuff, I can recommend a wonderful website that helps you get the most out of your offal.

This website is based on a cookery book that came out of the rather dazzling St John’s Restaurant in London. I went there once, and took the liberty of nicking the menu, which I reproduce here for your delectation, with certain annotations that reflect the delicate state in which I found myself upon that day.

‘You need to be in pretty robust fettle to get some of this stuff down. The roast bone marrow – if you’re feeling a little delicate – reminds one of mucus, and mucus is the last thing you want when you’ve got a hangover. Next, for some unfathomable self-destructive reason, I went for the crispy pigs’ noses, by which I mean the crispy noses of pigs. This only took me further into the world of mucus, for when they arrived, that was just what they looked like: a couple of the noses of pigs looking up at you – insofar as pigs look with their noses – from the plate. By this time I was having trouble keeping the lid on the stuff, and it was with some relief that I drew into the terminus of this gastronomic journey with a refreshing calvados sorbet.’



Artichoke vinaigrette (V)

Cured beef and celeriac

Deep fried skate-cheeks and green sauce

Langoustines ansd mayonnaise

Native oysters (each) It didn’t say what ‘each’ meant; mine for some reason was the ladies’ menu… but you can imagine.

Parsnip soup and foie gras

Roast bone marrrow and parsley salad

Smoked eel and horseradish

Snail and oakleaf … for heaven’s sake!

That was just the starters… we continued with:–

Braised squirrel and wild garlic

Brill, chips and tartare sauce

Fennel and Berkswell (V) … and serves ‘em right. (It’s hard to get good Berkswell these dark days.)

Kid faggott and mash

Pigeon and red cabbage

Roast sirloin, beetroot and pickled walnut

Tripe, white beans and bacon

Veal chop, spinach and anchovy

It goes on and on, and you can finish with Eccles Cake and Lancashire cheese, which some of our party actually did. Not me though; I wasn’t up to it by then.

But all this stuff is making me hungry… time for lunch.






bare tree mountain above capi 300x225 A WEEKS WONDERING IN FERREIROLA


Ferreirola is about the prettiest village in the western Alpujarra, and that’s where the enchanting Casa Ana is to be found. It’s just up the hill from our farm. In September the heat of summer is over and the beautiful low light of autumn takes over. The poplars and pomegranates ought to be changing colour and there’ll be the first hint of woodsmoke from the high villages of the Alpujarra. It’s a lovely season, and I can promise you that the food and wine will be of the best. The ambiente and conversation? Well that’s up to me and you… What we plan is three or four walks around the Alpujarra – nothing too tough, although it’s steep country, so you ought to be in tolerable good shape – a day at the Alhambra with an unusual gourmet lunch in Granada, some mooching round the mountain villages, and even, if all goes according to plan, a walk to and lunch at the homestead, el Valero.

As of going to press I have no idea how we’re going to organise this, but WATCH THIS SPACE… or better still, take a look at






Amphibians for Chris 1 254x300 INADVISABLE COPULATIONS

Don't try this one at home, folks

There are days that turn up from time to time when nothing happens that is noteworthy or even amusing. Today, the 30th of March. has been like that so far… and I’m wondering if the fault is mine or the day’s. It would be wrong to blame the day, I think, so it must be me. I must be in that sort of mood… which gets me thinking that if I can write a halfway decent thing today, then I can write it any day.

In the morning I walked up the river with the doggs, as I do most mornings. Another dead toad in the pool, which is always a little dispiriting, although I have a feeling that the toads like it that way; it seems to be part of their cycle. Often this watery death is accompanied by some bizarre copulation, three or four smaller toads hanging on to the bloated body of the dead toad and all rolling around in a clump in the water. It’s not the sort of copulation that’s to everybody’s taste. I would be grateful if anybody who might know what exactly is going down here, could let me know and thus illuminate my darkness.

I was reminded of Woody Allen saying, ‘The thing about sex is that when it’s good, it’s really good; and when it’s bad… well, it’s still pretty good.’

I wonder if the toads see it that way… or spiders, of whom the male in many cases, gets eaten by the female. A quick trawl through the murkier reaches of the internet merely demonstrates that there are even worse things that can happen. Let’s not go there.

As I wandered up the river musing to myself on the pleasures and dangers of copulation, I heard a nightingale in the tamarisks, the first one of the year. Aiming my ears at the spot, I didn’t see where I was going and stepped on an unfortunate snake sunning itself by the water. With an inaudible oath it shot out from beneath my unfeeling flip-flop and slithered like a rocket into the river. Everything you read urges you to wear stout walking boots in rough terrain, but thank heavens I didn’t, or it would have been curtains for that poor snake. It only goes to show: you shouldn’t believe everything you read.

Ants for dinner today 300x225 INADVISABLE COPULATIONS

Post-prandial rather than post-coital, but a great photo by Andrew Phillips