These are a few of my favourite things

My favourite things

“Brown paper parcels, wrapped up in string” – this is how the Day of the Book was celebrated in the library in La Calzada, Gijon, where I hugely enjoy being a member of one of the flourishing book clubs. Library users could make a “blind date” with a book, take it home, show it where they best like to read, and enjoy it!  It’s so long since i got a brown paper parcel wrapped up in string.  How my sister would have appreciated this.


early morning love poem (lamp found under bushel (2))

I wrote this poem sitting on the Alsa bus to the airport going to catch a plane to Lisbon. But it´ll do for my departure from Gijón last Wednesday, leaving to start a new life at home in England.  Except it wasn´t raining.

Escribí este poema sentado en el bus por el aeropuerto, para coger un avion para Lisboa, hace cuatro años.  Pero vale para la salida desde Gijón el miécoles pasado, saliendo de la ciudad para empezar una nueva vida en casa en inglaterra.  Pero no estaba lloviendo.  Traducción en español abajo.

how soft the air,

the gentle rain

the dark

the traffic lights

smell from the bakery

a woman finding her place in the book she´s reading at the bus stop

(it´s 6.30 in the morning)

and only two hours ago

i left a bar full of people, ears

full of music, made right in front of us,

spun from common knowledge and nothing visible.

Oh look, I´ve just

fallen in love with a ring, a bright

circle of bedding plants

on this soft grey morning,

leaving the city I love.

Poema de amor de la Madrugada

Tan dulce el aire

llovizna tierna

las tinieblas

los semáforos

olor de la panadería

una mujer buscando la pagina del libro en la parada del bus

(son las seis y media)

y solo hace dos horas

salí de un bar lleno de gente

el oído lleno de música

tocada delante de nuestros ojos,

tejida de sabiduría común

y nada visible.

¡mira! acabo de enamorarme

de un anillo,

un circulo brillante de plantas

en esta mañana suave y gris,

al salir de la ciudad que quiero.

more Good Things in Gijón

wpid-CAM01249.jpgHave reason to be hugely grateful to Sonia Oceransky, macrobiotic chef and food consultant, whose advice has helped me clean up my body and put a re-occurrence of breast cancer into remission.  Here´s a photo of delicious things we made on Saturday morning´s cookery course, a huge choice of breakfast food: patés,  – of red lentils, sardines, the most surprising and delicious perhaps, onion, tofu with soy sauce, pancakes – finding this difficult to translate!  actually, like Mexican tortillas but made of different cereals,  varieties of “porridge”, grilled tofu and tempeh, and pear jam! Strictly not for eating all at once!

El Uno, el Único Libro

Encontré este poema, del poeta ruso Velimir Khlebnikov, hace unos años, y me impresionó tanto que quisé compartirlo, pese a mis escaso dominio de la arte de traducción. (Lo lei en inglés.) Aquí está.

He visto las Vedas negras,

El Corán y los Evangelios

y los libros de los Mongoles

en sus cubiertas de seda

todos hecho de polvo, de las cenizas de la tierra,

del estiércol, del olor dulce

que las mujeres Kalmyk usan como combustible cada mañana – 

los he visto ir al fuego,

tenderse y desvanecerse

blancos como viudas en nubes de humo

para dar prisa a la llegada del uno, del Único libro,

cuyas páginas son océanos enormes,

parpadeando como las alas de una mariposa azul,

y el hilo de seda, marcando el sitio 

donde el lector descansa su mirada,

es todos los ríos grandes en un diluvio azul oscuro.


Volga, donde cantan las canciones Razin por la noche,

Nilo amarillo, donde adoran al sol,

Yangtse-Kiang, rezumando con gente,

y enorme Misisipí, donde se pavonean los Yanquis,

en pantalones estrelladas, sí, en pantalones 

cubiertos con estrellas.

Y Ganges, cuya gente oscura son árboles de la mente,

Y Danubio, gente blanca en camisas blancas

cuya blancura está reflejada en el agua,

y Zambezi, cuya gente es más negra que botas,

y Ob tormentosa, donde pica el ídolo

y lo gira, cara al muro,

Cuando come la grasa prohibida

y Támesis, que es aburrido, aburrido.


Género de Humanidad, ¡sois lectores del libro

cuya portada lleva la firma del creador,

las letras cieloazul de mi nombre!

Sí, tu, lector descuidado

Mira! Presta atención!

Permites que tu atención se extravíe

como sí  todavía estuviese en clase de catecismo – 

¡Pronto, muy pronto vas a leer

Esas cordilleras montañosas y esos océanos enormes.

¡Son el Uno, el Único libro!

La ballena salta de sus páginas,

Y la ala del águila dobla el margen de la hoja

Cuando se lanza en picado sobre las olas del mar, el pecho

del océano, a descansar en la cama del águila pescadora.




























Lamp found under bushel (1) The One, The Only Book

I found this astonishing poem a few years ago:  Happy New Year everyone.

The One, the Only Book

by Velimir Khlebnikov


I have seen the black Vedas,

the Koran and the Gospels

and the books of the Mongols

on their silken boards – 

all made of dust, of earth´s ashes,

of the sweet-smelling dung

that Kalmyk women use each morning for fuel – 

I have seen them go to the fire, 

lie down in a heap and vanish

white as widows in clouds of smoke

in order to hasten the coming

of the One, the Only Book,

whose pages are enormous oceans

flickering like the wings of a blue butterfly

and the silk thread marking the place where the reader rests his gaze

is all the great rivers in a dark-blue flood: 


Volga, where they sing the Razin songs at nighttime,

yellow Nile, where they worship the sun,

Yangtze-Kiang, oozing with people,

and mighty Missiissippi, where the Yankees strut

in star-spangled trousers, yes, in pants

all covered with stars.

and Ganges, whose dark people are trees of the mind,

and Danube, white people in white shirts

whose whiteness is reflected in the water,

and Zambezi, whose people are blacker than boots,

and stormy Ob, where they hack out their idol

and turn him to face the wall 

whenever they eat forbidden fat

and Thames, which is boring, boring.


Race of Humanity, you are Readers of the Book

whose cover bears the creator´s signature,

the sky-blue letters of my name!

Yes, you, careless reader,

look up! Pay attention!

You let your attention wander idly,

as if you were still in catechism class.

Soon, very soon you will read 

these mountain chains and these enormous oceans!

They are the One, the Only Book!

The whale leaps from its pages,

and the eagle´s pinion bends the page´s edge

as it swoops across sea waves, the breast

of ocean, to rest in the osprey´s bed. 


 – translated from the Russian by Paul Schmidt


sharing film heaven

Before life sweeps me on, I just want to note four of the wonderful films I saw in this year´s Gijón International Film festival.

“The Don Juans” by Jiri Menzel (Czech): I chose to go because in my teens I saw “Closely Observed Trains” on the South Bank, and it appealed to me to have spent a lifetime´s watching films while he´s been making them!  It´s about a provincial opera company putting on Don Giovanni, or, our human efforts to make magic: so, enchanting singing (the children are the best), funny, masterly portraits of so many people, and elegant architecture.  I found it so lovely that I cried almost throughout.  That´s how beauty gets me, sometimes.

 “Ida” by Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland)  had me involved from the very first moment in the quiet but intense story of a young nun, about to take her vows in 60´s Poland, who goes to meet her aunt, her only relative.  It won best film, best screenplay, best actress, and best artistic direction.

Does anyone know where the line from Shakespeare “Thou gildst the even” comes from?  I´ve just looked through the sonnets without success.. It was the title (in Turkish) of a tragi-comedy, both mystical and magical, yet earthed in the realities of small-town life – the images are still haunting me two weeks later, and I´ve still got the soundtrack on my brain. Onur Ünlü “Sen Aydinlatirsin Geceyi”.

Before the showing of “Los insólitos peces gato” (the Amazing Cat Fish) the director Claudia Sainte-Luce (Mexico) came on stage and briefly said that it was so wonderful for her to be able to show us this family who meant so much to her – from which I immediately took that it was to an extent autobiographical, and it was an added joy to presence the excitement of a young woman whose first work has got out into the world.  If I say what it´s about it sounds grim, because It´s the story of a young woman, alone in the world, who ends up in hospital with appendicitis, next door to the mother of four children who´s dying of aids. But if I say how it feels it´s wonderful – the character of each of the four children as individuals beautifully delineated, the mother´s extraordinary ability to stay on the ball despite being in and out of hospital, the way the children share the difficulties and moments of fun – the young woman gets adopted into the family as just one more.  A vibrant example of how – as we used to say in the sixties – sisterhood is powerful.

 I specially liked  “Blockbuster”, by Tirso Calero (Spain) for its theme: an elderly actor prefers to take a part in a film made by a youngster than do any more adverts.  I´ve always thought that actors have it the worst: you continue to be a musician even if you´re just practising at home.  But without an audience, an actor doesn´t exist. This film wore its heart on its sleeve, and – with the ageing population across Europe – it should have a huge audience!