Skip to main content

Imagined Distances


Writing in the local paper. Local issues with a global take. I never translate literally and the editor trims at will to make it fit. Here's my version, then theirs.


It happened while we were overlooking one of the world’s unofficial wonders, sitting under a desperately thirsty acacia tree, swatting away flies and scratching at fleas. A temple dedicated to one of the busiest men in the patronage business. Countries as disparate as the U.K and Georgia reclaim his favours while cities as far away as Rio and Moscow share the Cacereño hope that he will mediate with the powers that be on our behalf against plagues, dragons and the men in black. However this temple wasn’t the familiar one with whitish spires here in Caceres that lords above our squat 1960’s plaza named after this busy man, but one carved out of living rock in Lalibela, in the remote hinterlands of north western Ethiopia. A religious ceremony was going on 25 metres below in the cool of the hollowed out grotto when two people sat beside us under the extremely meagre shade and asked us in accented Spanish where we were from. I said Canada and my wife, Caceres. Our new neighbours told us that they were from Barcelona and had never been out to Caceres but had always heard that it was lovely but that it was so far away and difficult to get to that they had never been. The ceremony drew on as a satin robbed priest breezed along under colourful parasols totted by angel-like helpers dressed in billowy white while emaciated and envious cows began to nudge us out of their shade. I may not be a believer in saints but I am an admirer of tales and their power to persuade. I was once in Cyrene, Lybia, where some say ol’ George slayed a dragon, at a time before another tyrant was dragged out of a culvert and murdered and I have seen first hand legend’s power to convince. What we perhaps need here is to ask for a different kind of intercession, one that slays the black legend dragon regarding our remoteness and puts in a good word for us in yet another city that retains his favours. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The 10 Best Places to Swim...?

I read a post the other day listing the 10 best places to swim around the world. Reading through them I realized that I hadn't been to even one of them!

Poor me, but then I thought, wait...I've swum in some lovely places.

Let's narrow them down to 3 in no particular order.

Ginnie Springs, High Springs, Northern Florida


If northern Florida wasn't interesting enough in its own time travel way, these springs are perfect. It's a surreal place to swim among the Spanish moss while the alligators patrol out in the warmer river that the springs flow into (the big toothy grins don't like the cooler water).

Bir Ali, Yemen


Yemen never makes it onto the glossy Caribbean style travel brochures, but the emerald green of the Arabian Sea is a mighty match for hurricane alley. Just outside the town of Bir Ali you can camp on a deserted white sandy beach that seems to extend all the way down to Aden. Behind you the sands of the beach meet and mingle with those of the desert on the vol…

Thou Shalt All Think the Same

Writing in the local paper. Local Issues with a global take. I never translate literally and the editor trims at will to make it fit. Here's my version, then theirs.

One of the first things that drew me to Spain back in the nineties was a feeling that people generally minded their own business. Sure, they might comment, criticize or even ridicule those who wore socks with sandals, ate in the street or simply did things differently, but at least they let them do it. While the hyper-entrenched norms of society exerted an enormous pressure on people to fit in, non-conformists were mostly looked down upon, but not necessarily punished. If someone wanted to transform a lovely nineteenth century house in their village into a three story apartment monstrosity, well, if the law somehow let them do it, it was their choice to do so. The homogeneity of streets and entire Spanish villages have suffered enormously due to this, but if that’s the look the owner wants, well? Taste is after all a …

Nothing to do with it

Writing in the local paper. Local Issues with a global take. I never translate literally and the editor trims at will to make it fit. Here's my version, then theirs.

Just as the bartender put down our cañas, my companion somewhat skeptically asked, “But how is it possible that you, a Canadian, are complaining about the cold here in Spain?” And he was right on two fronts, I am Canadian and indeed I had been complaining about the cold, but I persevered, “After having lived abroad so long, I’m not sure how much ‘Canadian’ is left in me but even that last little bit is sick and tired of winter, especially as it is technically now spring!” A temporary truce was called when our tapas was served and as I enjoyed my morcilla (blood sausage), I got ready for the next volley. “Really, down here we can’t complain. Look at how they getting punsished just north of here in the mountains and beyond.” And once again, he was right, the images on TV were terrible reminders of my frozen childhood bac…