Items filtered by date: August 2016

High mountains and curly kale in Asturias

If you look at a map of Asturias, it shows a rugged and wrinkled place. I have a relief map showing little mountain peaks, contours and river valleys and plains: it looks like countryside you would see from 30,000 feet up, it looks like an old farmer´s face ravaged by time and wind. Asturias is one of the most northern provinces of Spain. It’s not the most northern point, that honour belongs to Galicia, but Asturias is next in line, straddling the Bay of Biscay with a coastline sculpted by the sea. Inland it is lush with green: this is the Costa Verde, it rains a lot here. Even so, in the summer the sun can burn quite fiercely and, despite the lushness, parts of Asturias are also dirty, polluted and have their share of badly-built housing estates overspilling towns with urban sprawl. Let’s away from the tower blocks!

I´m going to take you to the Aller valley, going past Oviedo, the region’s capital, and heading down the mining valley of Mieres, following the river Lena. Just after Mieres, let´s turn left at Las Vegas (no gambling here!) and follow another valley, along the river Aller. (It sounds just like the Spanish word for yesterday – ayer - so nobody buys bread from Aller...) Our valley runs west to east, which is unusual here as most valleys run from north to south. The Aller is joined by the river San Isidro, coming down from the ski resort of the same name much higher up the mountain (1,500 metres to the top of the ski station) and we forsake the Aller, yesterday´s river, and continue up the San Isidro valley to Felechoso (“fernworthy” in English). But we realize we´ve overshot the village of El Pino, where the walk proper begins, so turn around and the village is about one kilometre back down the road.

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Mongolian metal? Chilean rappers? Must be at FMM

Sines, a coastal town two hours south of Lisbon, is principally known for three things: heavy industry, world music and Vasco de Gama. It is blessed with especially deep waters that allow its port to welcome the largest of container ships. Huge refineries encircle the town, processing all the oil and gas and petrochemicals that come in through the port. It all makes for a surreal, sci-fi sight, far from idyllic.

In parts Sines retains its old fishing village charm and its beach is good but industrial progress has undoubtedly spoiled the landscape. By way of an apology, Galp (Portugal’s leading energy company) sponsors the town’s annual world music festival: FMM (Festival Músicas do Mundo). The sponsorship enables the organisers to keep the festival cheap (indeed much of it is free) while attracting an impressive array of headline names.

I say "names”, but of course most people have never heard of the acts they come to see. The programmers have earned the trust of festival-goers over the years and visitors turn up in their droves ready to be charmed and to get on down to whatever music is thrown their way. One of the most popular acts this year was a Mongolian folk metal band (alas we arrived the day after their gig) while last year we’d waited to see a Chilean rapper with mild curiosity, only to be totally blown away – Anna Tijoux rocks!

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Homing instinct urges return to the nest

Back-packing across foreign lands is one of the greatest adventures you can undertake and one of the most proving things to put yourself through: not only does it open up the world and its myriad of cultures but it also gives a very real insight into how you as an individual can cope with the basics. I could, for example, hold forth for hours on the various toilets and “toilets” I have encountered, some with plumbing, many without, some accessorised with the ogling eyes of sad men, some with the clacking sound of massed cockroaches. You’ll actually squat anywhere when push comes to shove. (Bizarrely my most urgent of calls led me to seek scant privacy behind one of the trees lining an avenue in Pimlico, London: it was New Year’s Eve, I had no other option.) I took the easy way into back-packing. I lived and worked in Iran for a couple of years and experienced being thrown in at the deep end of everyday life in what was initially a totally alien culture to me as a convent-school educated young woman. Inevitably the most important lesson I learned was that people are just people wherever you or they happen to be. Whatever the unpleasantness I sometimes suffered in the Tehran streets as a white woman in western clothes, it wasn’t that far removed from similar incidents of unwelcome groping to which I’d been subjected on the streets of Rome: overall, I found Iranians to be incredibly warm and friendly people, living and working and getting on with stuff like the rest of us. This led to the second valuable lesson: if people are just people the world over, then seeing something of that world is nothing to fear. My apprenticeship was over, I was ready to take to the road.

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Heading off on The Way

  • Published in News

A couple of years ago my Dad announced that he wanted to do the Camino de Santiago. I think this was partly inspired by the film The Way, starring Martin Sheen and directed by his son Emilio Estevez, and partly because my Dad likes to walk. Now, I’ve no burning drive to walk. Other than a means of getting from A to B I can think of better ways to use my time but I was suddenly faced with an opportunity which doesn’t come along too often: the chance to spend an extended period of time with my father. Life has a way of getting in the way of things like that. You can’t just take six weeks off; you’ve got to go to work, pay the bills, do the shopping, keep on with your routine. After all, life is routine so much of the time. You do what you have to do and not what you want to do because of RESPONSIBILITIES. But the thing about life is that it’s finite. I’m not getting morbid but as sure as eggs is eggs we’ve all got to die at some point, as far as I know there’s no way out of getting out of that one. But when someone close to you dies you inevitably ask yourself: did you spend enough time with them? Did you miss out on talking with them because you had to go to the supermarket? Did you not visit them because it would be too inconvenient? Did you waste an opportunity to share some time together? Did you put it off until another day? Did you just not see them because life got in the way? So when my Dad said he was doing the Camino it was immediately clear to me that this was an opportunity that I wasn’t going to waste. Sod the routine.

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About

Red House Work is the body of music, songs and videos written and produced by the band, Red House, based in Pinzales, Gijón. Here we also give you a flavour of our cultural and musical interests and those of others. Contact us on: redhousepostbox@gmail.com

Red House Work es el conjunto de la música, las canciones y los vídeos escritos y producidos por el grupo Red House, con base en el pueblo de Pinzales, Gijón. En esta web os ofrecemos también una muestra de nuestros gustos culturales y musicales y los de otra gente afín a nuestro proyecto. Podéis contactar con nosotros a través de:redhousepostbox@gmail.com