February 15

This is the first entry in what I hope will be a daily addition to the blog- mostly about the garden and things that are happening there but also some of the things that I think about while working in the garden, good thoughts, negative thoughts, good ideas and not so good idea.  Let’s see what happens.

Last year we had a lot of snow and freezing (everything being relative of course: lots of snow in Victoria is not the same as lots of snow in Calgary. At the bed and breakfast, and throughout the city, this resulted in some strange and wonderful combinations when the regularly scheduled blossoms came up. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos.  For one thing I didn’t think at the time that this was such a wonderful event.  It was only after the fact that I realized what an opportunity I had missed.  Oh well.  I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again (especially now that I have a new camera as well.)

This year is the complete opposite: it has been a very mild winter and everything is very early. Today we have daffodils, crocuses, snowdrops and lots of the trees are in blossom- not the fruit trees thank goodness. The roses are in bud as are the tulips. The cantab lilies by the lower entry are in full bloom.

Showdrops in the Garden at Albion Manor

Daffodils at the front of the Manor

While a lot of the daffs are in bloom, there are hundreds just coming. I am noticing thought that there are some empty spots in the daffodil beds, a sure sign of narcissus bulb fly which was the bane of the daffodils, and me, in the garden in Burnaby. I am going to try this year to catch the moths, or butterflies, or whichever they are, using a net. If I make a concerted effort to do this it certainly can’t hurt and any that I catch will certainly help the bulbs for next year. There is nothing more frustrating that planting something and having it eaten under the ground where you can’t even see the little buggers. Yes there is- having slugs eat everything above the ground!

Gin

After living with someone for 18 years you begin to know them quite well.  You know what they think, what they are going to do next, how they will react to a given situation.  You can brush your teeth at the same time at the same sink and not get in each other’s way because you know how the other person will move and where and when.  Your life together is a ballet in which you move together, perfectly choreographed, in perfect harmony.

Then, one day, that person does something that makes you realize that you don’t know them at all.  That person, who you used to think of as an extension of your own mind and soul, does something, an action, not premeditated, that makes you realize that you are living with a stranger, someone you don’t know at all.  In fact, maybe you have never even met them before.

You are standing in the kitchen preparing the evening meal.  He is preparing the drinks-  gin and tonic.  As it should be.  Tall glass.  Ice from the freezer.  Gin.  Bombay Sapphire, well chilled.  What else is there.  Tonic.  Then it happens.  The thing that rends your world.  Instead of pouring the tonic into the glass, he pours it into the gin bottle.

And sloshes it around!

Has he gone mad?  What are you doing?

“Oh, the bottle was empty and I didn’t want to waste any.”

Your mind reels.  People, well, I mean real people, just don’t do that kind of thing.  When the bottle is empty, it’s empty.  You just open a new one.  You don’t turn the bottle upside down into a glass to let it drain out, every last drop, drop by drop.  You don’t stick your finger into the top of the bottle and then lick your finger.  You don’t hold the bottle up to your mouth and lick the top.  You don’t stick your tongue into the top of the bottle and lick around hopeful that there might still be a drop there.  You just don’t do that kind of thing.  We aren’t paupers.  We have manners.

And then I think, why didn’t I think of that?

Don at
Albion Manor Victoria BC Bed and Breakfast

On Marmalade

Remember that English is my second language so please be lenient.

Our particular feeling of a bed and breakfast at Albion Manor is related to the idea of being a link to the past and some good traditions (Beware! Some, not all traditions are good).  In this past, things were done not thinking in practicality or cost wise but in the only way things are or should be done (without killing ourselves in the process, after all we are in the twentieth one century).

In our table over breakfast we offer Seville orange marmalade.  It goes without saying it that I am the responsible for it and of course I am following a family recipe.  This peculiar way of making the concoction was develop in my country by my family in one of the most difficult time in the recent history of Spain.  If they manage I should do my best to try to made it now in here with so much wealth of options in our hands.

Imagine the scenario.  Spain 1940, the Civil War just finished in fact groups of terrorists (well I would not call them that, rather freedom fighters but again that depends in which side of the camp you are siting.  Is it not?) were hiding in the mountains fighting back in a desperate low key guerrilla war trying to send a message to the world that the spirit of democracy in Spain was still alive.  The Guardia Civil was kept busy trying to find and kill them, the guerrillas were as well trying to kill and avoid to be so by the others.  It was dangerous for every body but specially and ironically for the poor, as the African saying goes “When the elephants fight the grass suffers”.

My mother’s family lost every thing in the war, most important her father.  So my grandmother with her three kids moved to live with her two sisters and their family.  And they very were lucky. They managed to work for a landlord that allow them to live in one of his farms (bullfighting land) in the countryside deep in the south just one or two journey walk from Gibraltar.  Precisely one of the most active unsettled areas in the South.   They were allow by the landlord to use a little land to grow vegetables and rise some livestock.

Once when I was a child inadvertently I over heard a whisper that was suppose to be a secret. Even if decades has passed it was very incorrect to allow minors to know about wrong things that your elders did even if it was for a good cause.  You never know the licenses a child can take if he or she heard of broken rules done by their role-models.

In hot midday summers men goes for the canonised siesta and the women of the house gather together in the fresher part of the house to quietly chat.  It’s with those low voices conversations that kids finally surrender to the siesta or so the grownup people thinks.  In one of those days I learn of a time when my mother was a little girl (unbelievable to heard that she ever was).  Her two elder brothers were teenagers.  At the time it was almost customary in the farm for the boys to go to work.  I knew that it was often repeated to me, reminding me of how spoiled my cousins and I were.  Suddenly the voices went more quietly.  Some thing interesting was being mentioned.

I heard that during those wretched times my two uncles for a while were smugglers!  You see after the Spanish Civil war Great Britain closed it’s border that it had with Spain.  Yes, Spain has an actual geographical land border with Great Britain (even if Great Britain is an island) through its colony Gibraltar.  An illegal black market was instantly created.

In order to gain a extra money for the family my teenager uncles were put to work in that lucrative black commerce.  They used to go off for days, waking during the nights some time taking longer to use safer passes between valleys and mountains elevating the fears for an unfortunately encounter.  They have to be extra careful to keep an eye in two sides the Guardia Civil in one hand and the guerrillas in the other all looking for their precious cargo.

The cargo usually was beautiful silk female stockings from America, tobacco, café and sugar from Cuba, tea, and marmalade from England.  Back in the safety of home and one just can not imagine the relieve of the family seeing those two young lads approaching over the smooth hills that surround the house.  They will wait for the “connection” owner of the cargo.  But some times the connection coming to pick up the goods never showed up for reasons unknown- too sad or scary to even think about.  No one to turn to no one that could claim a thing that can be recognise to exist.  So here we have a family of very modest living some time enjoying the luxuries of a few.

The problem always so human was that once you try the good stuff you want more.  Of all the goods that they got to enjoy only marmalade could be reproduce by them.  I don’t know who, probably some of my great aunts figure it out.  Probably she thought of how strange the world was that the marmalade has to come from England when the oranges where produced right there in her own patio so to speak.  So having a beautiful Seville orange tree in the patio, keeping the seeds for the pectin and using the extra sugar (plus three extra ingredients that I will avoid mention if you don’t mind) they would produce the thing them.

And they did.  And they never commercialised it and never became rich.  In fact one of the most important job for absolutely everybody was to keep an eye in the horizon to spot any Guardia Civil on patrol and run to the house to hide anything what so ever that would be difficult to justify in such a lowly surrounding.

PS. For the enquiring mind.  Here in Victoria BC we receive authentic Seville orange once a year around February.  That is when I provide myself with the most important ingredient.  Ho ever I am trying to grow my own Seville orange tree from a seed of a tree from my own neighbourhood in Sevilla that I smuggled into Canada three years ago.  I guess that certain things just go naturally into your own blood.

Fernando at
Albion Manor Bed and Breakfast in Victoria BC

Mural on the Ceiling of Room 7 Bathroom

Remember that English is my second language so please be lenient.

Today I have decide to start the mural paintings in the bathroom of room number seven.  It is going to be a long, long process so the sooner I start the better all thou the words soon or fast or convenience doesn’t go necessarily with the trade of creating a work of art.  In fact some of the most relevant contemporary artists of our time base their work precisely trying to demonstrate this point.  But since this is going to be just painting merely a bathroom I guess difficulties should be easy to overcome.

My first problem to tackle is to find a proper theme for a bathroom.  I am sure that Greek-roman mythology would give me plenty of themes for this area of the house.  But people are not familiar any more with these stories and any way it tend to be rather heavy subjects.  Who would like to think about the destiny of a hero when doing the mundane business of the bathroom!

How about floral?  That could be a fantastic subject.  It has plenty of samples to reproduce and great for experimenting with the most interesting and outrageous combination of colours.  All thou it tends to be too in the feminine side and that doesn’t go with the other side.  We are already pushing the boundaries a bit with all the doilies around.

Water is an important element in the bathroom.  Maybe I could use ocean allegories.  Blue will be the main hue, which it helps to give an air of expanding space.  Victoria is a port city that is another connection.  I probably will finish painting a Neptune who will look rather pompous and thanks to Walt Disney mermaids are a nono.

Proper nudity is a sophisticated option.  It can be presented in a very elegant way so to prevent issues of political sexism.  But since it is impossible to know the degree of up tide-ness of our guests, especially in this northern latitude of the continent the subject of nudity must be avoid.  Especially when you are busy in the bathroom an enclosure area with an option of only four walls to look at.

This is becoming a conundrum.  I am keeping remaining me that this is just a bathroom.  I feel as in a cup du sack.  I went back to the darn bathroom and sat in the loo for inspiration and have a view as a guess would from that position.  I found one of the books that we offer which appropriately is called “Up the Cistern.  A lavish Celebration of the Smallest Room” by James Riddle.  In the subject of the most popular pastimes in the loo reading stand for 20%.  The first one is thinking with a 21% but at the B&B the guest is on vacation so I thought that I could spear the guest to use their time in that way.

Therefore, since reading is a prefer activity at lavatories I have came to the happy conclusion that I will decorate the walls of the rest room of number seven with popular saying and so be it.

P. S. I am so glad that I am out of this one.

Fernando

Albion Manor Bed and Breakfast

Mural on ceiling of Rom 7 Bathroom

Albion Manor Bed and Breakfast: Mural on Ceiling of Room 7 Bathroom

Public Spaces

Hello. Please remember that English is my second language so please be lenient.

Over breakfast, especially after a nice strong café, a number of interesting conversations develops between the guests in our bed and breakfast. The themes are extremely various and I don’t miss one if I can. Some time is difficult not to lose track of the discussions between taking back to the kitchen the finished dishes of beaked pears and bringing the frittatas or the soufflés.

Today the theme was public space and how much are we gaining or losing to commercial enterprises. About this issue I just had a wonderful experience that has consolidated my opinion that Canada really needs to rethink and refocus its policy, if there is one.

I just came back last Monday from a short stay in Spain visiting relatives and friends. It was my first time in two years since I was there last time. During my stay I visited Jerez, Malaga, Algar and my own city Seville. All of these cities are in the south, tourism is one of their mayor industries (especially in Malaga) and the sizes are from medium to small. Seville is the capital of the region Andalusia and the biggest one with not yet a million people and Algar is a little hamlet of two thousand people. But what I am about to tell affect to them all.

Focusing in Seville, I was very impressed and happy to see how the city hall has taken the duty of returning the center core of the city to the people. This has been and still is a hard battle against the will of commercial companies and business owners that wanted to keep the situation as it was. This situation was (and I am so glad to use the verb in past tense) a pitiful chaos where on the streets the car was the king or rather I should say the emperor.

It was a stressful situation where going shopping I which I could have the ability of the chameleon with one eye on the windows and the other on the cars and motorbikes. This is a medieval city where sidewalks some times are not wider than a metro and due to the traffic on the streets to avoid each other in the sidewalks some times the situation remind me of dancing salsa.

Well all of that is over. First of all the subway (more public transportation) finally has arrived. Secondly all traffic has been cut off. Only electrical cars, emergencies and cars from owners that live downtown are allow to get into the center of the city. Third, trees, fountains and art and spaces for art have been created and art that is not just about prettiness but controversial art as well that encourage conversations and thoughts from the citizens.

Sculpture Exhibition in Plaza Nueva in Sevilla

Sculpture Exhibition in Plaza Nueva in Sevilla

As a consequence the historic center have been converted into a beautiful environment where humans can walk (what a concept eh?). And that is what precisely Sevillians are doing now wondering at the same time how could they have lived in that previous situation. Cafes and bars are putting tables outside and other business are putting there merchandise out as well to be seen by waking by people without noise and smokes.

They are re-conquering their own centre despite voices from Motor Age business that don’t want to see beyond there own interests. These unscrupulous businesses refuse to see the benefits of good health of people and monuments that were suffering from air and noise pollution and stress.

If you are thinking that Canadian’s cities don’t have the same problems as little medieval European cities you are missing the point. All what my argument is about is the spirit behind the laws that force public space to be there to be enjoyed by the citizens. To act in a manner that doesn’t represent an immediate monetary profit because it is a spiritual benefit.

Think about Vancouver and the recent issue about what to do with the stadium. The most important and first thought that came out is the value of the land, how has it increased, how more can we get out of it. I can imagine real state developers and McDonalds and Starbucks watering there mouths to the point of almost drowning thinking of the benefits that can be made.

Canada should try to create more public space where art and ludic activities can be exercise by its citizens.

More About Coffee

More about coffee

Remember that English is my second language so please be lenient.

According to “Vox populi”, in the 1600’s Pope Clement VII drank coffee, liked it and baptized it to convert it into a Christian drink.  I can imagine the ceremony in which His Holiness sprinkled holy water with a ‘golden hisopo’ (hyssop?) over the rich dark grains so it will not stain the souls of good Christians (Catholics).  No one pointed out how he could drink the beverage without it being Christianize!

On the other hand, I guess that it was good luck that I was not around to comment on it.  Otherwise the Catholic population would not enjoy the taste of café today.  Eh?

I am becoming notorious for making strong café at Albion Manor.  I have my theory about this problem.  If the café is strong I can smooth it down with a little of hot water.  Just as Clement VII did so café will not conflict with the drinker’s soul.  But if the café is weak there is nothing that I can do except use it as a nice stain for my watercolours.  Besides, I am running a Bed and Breakfast not a school of art.

Coffee

Remember that English is my second language so please be lenient.

I really think that it is the coffee.  There is a change of attitude in our guests at our Victoria BC b and b.  Some time the change is as dramatic as the change between chrysalides and butterfly.  They arrive quietly to the Peacock Parlor to wait a few minutes until breakfast is announced.  It is here where usually they have the first taste of my café or tea.  In a minute a lively chat can be heard from the dinning room where I am organizing the last details.  To help the digestive system to start I like to let the door of the kitchen open so the smell of the freshly made scones that Don has been making since the early hours of the day have permission to invade every room and surely will find a receptive nose.

The talks start later almost at the end of the breakfast.  It is how we human show our practicality, let’s first deal with these delicious pancakes and those wonderful sausages and we will talk later about how we can solve the problems of the world.

It is because our bed and breakfast embraces art in all its corners that this is an important subject at the end of our meals.  The guests don’t need to have degrees or read an “Art for dummies” kind of book in order to participate.  It is good at least to have an opinion, respect for someone who knows more than you and finally humbleness for who don’t know and is willing to learn.  And if this person doesn’t want to learn another cup of café may help to solve the problem.

One thing that I have learned as an artist since I am at Albion Manor is to be approachable to others.  And that is something that many people appreciate because they can ask questions about difficult contemporary art and I explained in simple language if only because English is not my mother tongue and my repertoire of words is some how limited to plain vocabulary.

I have to say that contemporary art is difficult as it should be since we, as humans, gradually in all our fields became more sophisticated.  You can not ask a Nobel Prize in mathematics to forget about all those complicated operations and return to old good additions and subtractions.  Could you?

In the same way it would be wrong to assume that past times expressions of arts were easier to understand.  This is wrong in two levels.  One we think that we understand confronting a work of art of the XVI centuries because we as a society already has absorbed what the artist wanted to say and therefore we see it immediately other question would be if the people contemporary to that artist understood what he (unfortunately not he/she) wanted to say.

Welcome to Fernando’s musings about the world and other things

Hello and welcome to my blog. I am going to write about lots of things, about art, about life, about the Manor, about life at the Manor, about my thoughts, about Spain, about religion, about politics and of course about breakfast.  Don’t forget that I am from Spain and my English still is not perfect so please forgive my grammar and spelling.