Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama

An event was advertised around the village last week to launch a book by an Aguanoso, Sebastián García Acosta. For at least the last thirty years Sebastián’s twin passions have been his camera and the mountains which stand behind the village and form the Parque Natural de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama, His book brings together the two wonderfully. So on Friday evening I dropped into the Casa de la Cultura (Cultural Centre) for the launch. The advertised start was 8.00pm which locally can indicate a much later actual start, but already the patio was already crowded with people at ten to eight and more were arriving all the time. Nor were they only villagers who could be expected to be friends and neighbours; many people had travelled to the village for the launch. Introductory speeches were made by people who had been instrumental in bringing the book, “Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama” to fruition; the man who had helped Sebastián select the photos from among the many thousands he has taken of this area, the editor who had designed both the overall structure and the detailed sections, the retired professor who had undertaken the translation of the Spanish text into English, so that the final creation is bilingual (and, incidentally, a great opportunity for anyone to improve their Spanish by studying the parallel texts.). And then Sebastián himself spoke of the book, his passion for photography - with his first wages he bought his first camera - and his love of these sierras, their majesty, their dangers, as well as the flora and fauna, including perhaps his favourite, the cabra montes (Iberian Mountain Goat) which is the emblem of the park and which sadly is found in few other parts of Spain these days.

The natural park encompasses, as its name suggests, three separate sierras, stretching in an east-west orientation from Otivar in the province of Granada to Venta de Zafarraya behind the town of Velez Málaga. This ridge of Dolomitic limestone is the westward extension of the much more well-known Sierra Nevada, whose main summit, Mulhacén, is at around 3,500metres, the highest on the Iberian Peninsula. From a wild region of ravines, cliffs and mountain streams in the east, it gradually broadens and softens to reach its western extremity in the much more rounded, Maroma just over 2,000 metres in altitude.

At the end of the speeches I joined the queue for my copy of the book which even in these economically challenging times, and at 50€ a copy, was flying off the table. Deservedly so. Examining it in detail later, I found it to be much more than a mere coffee table book - though it serves that purpose admirably - but also a detailed account of the topography and history, both natural and human, of this unique zone. This is a book to enthrall walkers, climbers, and other photographers, as well as those whose interests are in the fields of botany, ornithology, and the native fauna of Spain.

So, for any of you who fall into one or more of these categories, the details are as follows:

García Acosta, Sebastián Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama (Parque Natural), 2011
ISBN: 987-84-614-6866-9

And if it inspires you to want to explore the park, there’s a link from this blog to a guy who leads walks in the local mountains.


The Elections

Just looking at my statistics, I see that so far today I have had eleven hits on my blog, probably a record for a single day. All had entered a phrase like 'election results frigiliana' into a search engine and the search engines obligingly directed them to my blog.

So, if this is not shutting the stable door, I can tell you that PSOE obtained the largest share of the vote and claim five seats (+1); Partido Andalucista came second with four seats (-2) and Partido Popular came in with the remaining two seats (+1). The votes for Los Verdes and for Izquierda Unida were insufficient to entitle them to any seats. This means that PA have lost their absolute majority, but PSOE have only managed to secure a simple majority amounting to approximately 44% of the vote.

What does this mean in terms of the ayuntamiento? Mainly that the horse trading starts today. It is considered (I am told) unlikely that PSOE will try to operate as a minority administration as the other two parties would simply vote down every proposal they put forward. On the other hand, PSOE and PP are at opposite ends of the political spectrum and unlikely to want to come together in a coalition. Which boils down to whether the two PP councillors will prefer to throw in their lot with PA and be part of the ruling group, or refuse and remain in opposition, which would leave only the possibility of PSOE and PA burying the hatchet and forming a ruling team of nine. Who knows? Well, Brits might like to think back to May 2010 and Nick Clegg's team.

New alcaldes are sworn in on June 11th, so they've plenty of time to thrash it out. Watch this space, as they say.


A Quiet Day

Two weeks ago the campaigning began for our municipal elections, and since then there has been an abundance of meetings at which you can become familiar with the plans which each party has in the event of securing the majority of seats on the ayuntamiento. Of course, these opportunities have been accompanied by a free bar, and trays of finger food passing among the attendees. Sometimes a band has also been laid on, so that nobody needs to rush away once the speeches are over. At the same time we have had doorstep visits from each team of candidates to deliver a voting slip to use on their behalf, together with literature to support their argument for a chance to run the town. The ruling Partido Andalucista set out its claim with the slogan, "So much achieved; so much more to do." The other parties seek to rebut this proposition and suggest that after sixteen years, it's time for a change. A common theme to the electoral literature is that the other parties (not your own, clearly) are lying. This in turn calls for robust rebuttals from the party traduced.
The election is tomorrow, Sunday, and so at midnight last night - approximately, as it always is in Andalucía - all campaigning ceased and we the electorate are treated to a Día de Reflexión in which to make up our minds as to who gets our vote. The polls will then close at 8pm tomorrow and we should know the result by 10pm, at which point the partying will start again, either to celebrate victory or to console oneself and one's supporters for having come so (or not so) close to one.
Nice to have a quiet day; and the sun has come out again!


A Small World

The statement, "It's a small world" seems to have cropped up so often in my life that I could probably open another blog devoted entirely to examples from my own experience. However, my madrileño friend, Luis, tells me that lately I have not been giving this one the attention it deserves; that is even more true of my Spanish language blog, so perhaps two blogs is a sensible limit.
The trouble is that I have another interest which grabs my attention quite obsessively from time to time, so that other things tend to get neglected. That other interest is genealogy, or to be precise, my and my wife's family tree. Over the last year or two (it's probably more if I look properly) I have made good progress with three of my grandparents and with three of my wife's. Ironically, I am having most trouble with the least common surnames - Fullegar and Lanigan. I have recently been revisiting the Lanigan thread, my mother's paternal ancestors.
My mother took great pride, with justification, at the progress which her father had made in life. John Lanigan was born in 1869 to an Irish tailor and his dressmaker wife, Matthew and Mary Lanigan, in what Friedrich Engels referred to as "the classic slum'; this was the Greengate area of the city of Salford, a low-lying, ill-drained, massively overcrowded area in a loop of the River Irwell. The houses had been hurriedly thrown up with scant regard to anything but the need to put roofs over the heads of the people swarming into the area from the countryside and from Ireland to find work in the dozens of mills and factories which the arrival of the Industrial Revolution had given birth to. The houses were shoddily built, ill-provided with sanitation, small and hugely overcrowded. Into this festering quagmire was born my grandfather, the second youngest of six children; the whole family would have lived in a single room at No 6 Barrow's Court, thankfully long gone. He grew from this to become (ironically) Chief Sanitary Officer for the City of Salford, the equivalent in today's terminology of Director of Environmental Health. As I said, a justifiable cause for family pride.
However, during the time since my last posting to this blog, I have found out a little more about his father, Matthew Lanigan, my great-grandfather. He, it transpires, had already bettered himself by the time that his fifth child was born. On arriving from Ireland at some stage during the 1850s ( His marriage is recorded as being in the 3rd quarter of 1858 in Manchester), he lived not in Greengate, but in what I have discovered was an even more desperately deprived area, were that conceivable. His address in the 1861 census is given as 22 Beswick Row on the Manchester side of the Irwell in an area know as Angel Meadow. Essentially, it seems to have been an Irish ghetto in the shadow of Manchester's cathedral, covering an area of approximately 1 mile square. Into this hellhole was crammed in the mid-1850s a population larger than that of the whole of the rest of the city of Manchester. My great-grandfather had at least managed to escape to the somewhat less appalling Greengate by 1869.
And the small world? Well, I looked in the Manchester A to Z Street Map. Beswick Row still exists as a street. In the early 1970s, my office was no more than 200 yards from my great-grandfather's front door!