Friday, 7 October 2011

Holiday Snaps

Getaria, N. Spain

So, the summer... Where did that go? Suddenly it's October, Fresher's Week has come and gone, and I'm removing cobwebs from the wing mirrors every morning when I wipe the condensation off the car windows. I'm not bothered -- summer is not my favourite time of year.

My favourite time of year is coming up, as the days shorten and we start to roll down the solar hill, straight through Bonfire Night and on towards Christmas. Some people like spring, with its new beginnings, but, if you've been a bit of a swot and have the school year in your blood the way peasants used to have the farming seasons, the real fresh start is now. New teachers, new exercise books and that sense of chaotic communal purpose, like a ship setting out on a voyage.

Of course, if you hated school and love getting your shirt off in the sun then you probably loathe this time of year. Never mind, I expect you've had your fun in the sun, and now it's my turn. Mind, despite our all-round busy-ness, we did manage a two week holiday in the Basque Country. I love Atlantic Spain, with its mix of landscapes and climates, and find the Basques an engaging bunch.

Near Itziar, N. Spain

This year, I discovered the uniquely Basque object known as an argizaiola. There was one on the wall in our holiday let, but until I saw the collection of them in the San Sebastian museum and the penny dropped, I had assumed it was a piece of African wood carving, around which -- for whatever bizarre reason -- someone had wound a length of TV aerial cable.

These things are strange, a real bit of folk-culture weirdness. The "cable" is actually a very long, flexible candle. A Basque family may possess an argizaiola that has been passed down through many generations (some are very old indeed); it is used to represent their ancestors at a special mass, when it is placed flat on the floor of the church, and the end of the long candle is raised up vertically and lit. Yes, folks, ancestor worship in the EEC. I'd love to learn more, but most of the information is concealed behind that impenetrable barrier known as the Basque language.

This photo caused me some aggravation:

It was late at night, still very warm, and a thunderstorm was rolling through the valley. I went out on to the balcony to cool off, and thought I'd try some hand-held shots. I set the camera to ISO 1600, snapped away for a bit, then went back in for a beer. Unfortunately, I forgot I'd changed the ISO, and for several days was working at 1600 in broad daylight. I kept seeing the ludicrous shutter speeds and apertures in the display, thinking, "My, but the light is very bright down here..." Ah, well... I got some impressive depth of field, coupled with less impressive shadow noise.

Seems an odd place for a knitting party,
but check the size of that scarf...

In the Basque Country, you learn to expect the unexpected
around every corner. I have no idea who, what, why...


Martin said...

Good grief, Mike, for a minute there, I thought you'd sprouted wings, when I came upon the last photograph.

Mike C. said...

It's a very bizarre sight. You're trudging up a cliffside path, turn a corner, and there it is, carved into the sandstone for no apparent reason other than that it was possible.

The Basques see to enjoy long-form grafitti... Their political wall-paintings back in the days of the autonomy campaign were amazing, and made those N. Ireland house ends look like hurried spray-can tagging jobs.