GALA DALI – THE MUSE OF THE SURREALISTS

Dalí and Gala were a double act. She wasn’t his model or manager. He wasn’t her lover or provider. Gala was Gala, ruthless, implacable, that icy promiscuous fusion of liberation and desire that awakens the juices of original thought and creativity. In the soup of Salvador Dalí, Gala was the spice. Gala was a Tatar born Elena […]

MICHELLE MONE IS A THIEF

Michelle Mone is a thief. She should be in prison. She’s not. She’s either swanning through the House of Lords in ermine or disported on a luxury yacht in a bathing costume in the seas around one of the fiscal paradises in the Caribbean. With a successful business selling knickers and bras, she was made […]

SALVADOR DALI AND RELIGION

Salvador Dalí and religion never made a good fit. It is hardly surprising, then, that in 1935, aged thirty-one, Dalí created his own belief system and wrote a letter to André Breton outlining his proposition – a religion without God. That letter, lost for eighty-seven years, has finally turned up in the Breton archive. André […]

BOB DYLAN PLAYS LITTLE RICHARD

Bobby turned on the radio late one night in 1957 and the sound of Little Richard hammering out Tutti Frutti over over the airwaves changed his life. Tutti frutti, oh rootie / Tutti frutti, oh rootie, ooh Next day in the storeroom at the back of his father’s appliance store in Hibbing, Minnesota, he blew the dust off […]

WHAT IS SOCIAL MURDER?

Social murder is a phrase applied to changes in government policy that lead to greater poverty and result in anxiety, suicide and early death. The perfect example of social murder is the stance taken by the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and his Chancellor George Osborne – both members of the elite Bullingdon Club – […]

THE HIDDEN HILLS OF CADAQUES

1984. Late spring. Armed with a hand-drawn map, a bag of figs and some tangerines, we set out to climb what our friend Eloy Ferrer had called the hidden hills of Cadaqués.  The journey by train from Barcelona to Figueres took two hours and two more over the Big Dipper of a road with the bus fishtailing […]

WHY THE DALAI LAMA HAS AN ENGLISH ACCENT

The Chinese invaded Tibet in 1950 claiming the country was part of greater China. Nomadic warriors called Khambas, armed with swords, fought a guerrilla war against the Chinese for a decade. They attacked columns of armoured cars on horseback and shot up bomber planes with Lee Enfield rifles.  The Dalai Lama, the spiritual head of Tibet, […]

YOU’RE A LONG TIME DEAD

When dad took a second slice of cake or spent more time in the garden in the hot sun than mum thought wise, he would say: Don’t worry, Lily, you’re a long time dead. My dad was always cheerful and curious, always interested in what I was doing. He was proud when I became a […]

GEORGE ORWELL AND THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR

It was the day after Christmas in 1936 when George Orwell stepped off the train in Barcelona and followed his map to the recruiting office of the POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista), where he volunteered to fight for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War. What little I knew about the war before we […]

THE ORIGINS OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR

I knew nothing about the origins of the Spanish Civil War until we moved to Barcelona in 1984. General Franco had been dead nine years but his shadow loomed still over Spain like a cloud over the sun. My wife Valerie had been offered a position at the British Council in Barcelona and we rented […]

THE BIRTH OF CADAQUES

The birth of Cadaqués did not come about by chance. In the year 945, thirty years after the completion of the great monastery Sant Pere de Rodes, the wily abbot had a plan. With a party of broad-shouldered monks, the abbot set out on the sixty minute journey from the gates of the monastery, down […]

THE ANSWER IS BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND

Blowin’ in the Wind was a song drifting through the ether waiting for someone to reach out and grab; a lyric ‘that the times seemed to call forth,’ to quote critic Greil Marcus. Dylan scribbled the words down in ten minutes, he said. ‘If I hadn’t written it, someone else would have done.’  Blowin’ in the Wind is […]

JOSEP PLA WAS MY FIRST SPANISH TEACHER

Josep Pla was my first Spanish teacher. If I drop the odd anachronism into the conversation, don’t blame me, blame the great Catalan writer, journalist, bon vivant and, it has been said, forerunner of magic realism.  It all started after spending Semana Santa climbing the dirt track to Sant Pere de Rodes with my wife […]

CASA ANITA IN CADAQUES

Casa Anita in 1984 was still a well-kept secret, The Ritz for those with a bohemian spirit and a taste for fresh fish that has leapt straight out of the sea and landed on the grill. Named after the effervescent owner, Anita was a beautiful woman with dark lustrous eyes, hair black as coal and […]

SLIPPERY LIZ THE PLASTIC POLITICIAN

Slippery Liz the plastic politician can bend into any shape or form and, like plastic, has the potential to destroy the world as we know it. Some 172,000 Conservative Party members were eligible to vote in the prime ministerial contest – about 0.3% of the total UK electorate. Of the 141,725 card carrying Tories young […]

THE QUEEN’S LEGACY

The Queen’s legacy is a land of food banks, child poverty and Liz Truss. I did not know the Queen. I never met the Queen. My feelings about the Queen’s death at 96 is the same as my feelings about the death of anyone who has had the good fortune to live to be 96 […]

THE JINGLE-JANGLE MORNING

In the jingle-jangle morning I’ll come following you. I love this line. It has always intrigued me, but I have never known what it meant. Now I do. It doesn’t mean anything. The words are the meaning. They are beautiful, melodic, alliterative, compelling. We have all woken in the jingle-jangle morning unsure what the day […]

SELVA DE LA MAR

The first time I visited the monastery at Sant Pere de Rodes was on a stone track that led out of the village of Selva de la Mar. There was no road and the climb up the almost vertical gradient took two hours. It was Semana Santa 1984. I was with my wife Valerie and two […]

SANT PERE DE RODES

  In the story of Cadaqués, the monastery Sant Pere de Rodes has always played a major role. The vast Benedictine stronghold with unscalable walls looms over the surrounding countryside just ten kilometres around the coast from the village.  The Benedictines first came to this remote corner of Iberia at the end of the 9th century when […]