My fourth weekend here, a new month, and today is Owain's 39th birthday. It's hard to believe that my youngest child was born that long ago, at home in St Agnes Vicarage, Badminton Road in those days, just a bit to the east of the St Paul's Area 'front line' in Bristol. A little over half a lifetime ago. I was fortunate to have him here with me last weekend. Tonight he'll be in Cardiff with Clare, Kath, Anto and Rhiannon for his birthday celebration, and then we'll talk as best we can for a while over any VOIP connection we can establish.
This afternoon, I went into the Old Town to hunt for a shop selling herbs, to find some nettle and mistletoe leaves, as requested by Clare. Quite close to the Cathedral I found a herbolaria called 'Escencias de Sevilla' selling a wide variety of herbal medicines, including the ortiga verde which I was after. No luck obtaining the muérdago, I also needed, although I was pleased to have conversed in Spanish and made myself understood without recourse to English - except for the one word that wouldn't stick in my memory - muérdago. Altogether I had to look it up using Google Translate no less than three times in a couple of hours. Annoyance was compounded by the fact that the phone I was carrying was down to its last 5% of battery, so I had to keep it switched off, just in case I really needed to call in an emergency. Vocabulary retention deficit is a rather humiliating crisis to keep on repeating.
I tracked down a Bio shop in the Old Town, but it was closed for siesta. Rather than return to the apartment, I used the hour and a half wait to revisit Lagunillas barrio up behind behind La Merced. Conservation measures have retained many features of the main Old Town area, with its rich architectural diversity of 17th to early 20th century dwellings. Further out, older humbler domestic and artisan dwellings have been obliterated to make way for modern apartment blocks of 5-6 stories. The ancient street plan, squares and churches are retained, but the rest has a uniformity of character, despite efforts at design variety. These dwellings haven't evolved, but were 'organised' for the good of the artisanal classes by urban planners and developers. Disappointingly.
Some older streets of Lagunillas barrio have so far survived in a state of delapidation and awaiting demolition, no doubt. Remarkable high quality artistic graffiti cover walls here and there, and there are signs of a grassroots resistance campaign to stop demolition and regenerate the older housing stock rather than destroy it. This makes a lot more sense to me now than during my visit last year, maybe because my Spanish is improving.
I also spent time in the Plaza de la Constitucion, with an open air photo exhibition entitled 'Genesis' by Sebastião Salgado, portraying some of earth's great and awesome wilderness spaces in 38 huge black and white photos, mounted in double sided iron frames. The aim is to raise environmental awareness, and to get the public to think about natural treasures we're in danger of losing for good. Quite apart from the excellent high quality photographic work and its production, the subject matter is indeed chosen to stimulate thought and reflection. For me it was an experience of the sacred right in the heart of a key public place in the city.
When the Bio shop I'd located finally opened, I had no success in obtaining muérdago. As a last resort I'll visit the Mercado de Atarazanas on Monday morning and see what hidden treasures there are among the stalls - another proper herbolaria, hopefully.
After supper I had a Viber conversation with the family, all in Meadow Street after a visit to The Conway pub for supper. I managed to give them a visual tour of the nearer reaches of the apartment using the front camera on the tablet, but it kept dropping out as the signal is poor beyond 10 metres. It's so annoying and frustrating. I thin I must splash out €30 on a wifi range extender for the place fairly soon.