Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ribadesella 21st Jazz Festival

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This weekend has seen the arrival in town of the 21st Ribadesella Jazz Festival, an event not to be missed if you like free outdoor concerts with a great atmosphere and great music. Each year if we are here, we usually pop along to the concerts which span three consecutive nights. The concerts take place in one of the main squares in town and are well attended by all age groups. They start at 11pm through to 12.30am or there abouts depending on how many encores they are called back for.

Friday night saw the blues band Red House take to the stage. The crowd was really got into the mood of the evening and young and old alike were dancing in the aisles and enjoying the strong guitar riffs and husky blues voice of the lead vocalist.

Saturday night was the concert I was most looking forward to: The Black Light Gospel Choir. Each year they usually have a gospel choir on the bill and it usually proves to be the most popular. Saturday's performance was no exception with their high energy performances, brilliant vocals and superb musical arrangements of some rock classics such as Stairway to Heaven, Ain't No Stopping Us Now and Hallelujah.

Sunday night's concert will be Skytrain who are billed as being a jazz fusion band - if the energy levels allow we'll pop along and see what they are like but from previous year's experiences of jazz fusion it is not really my cup of tea but we'll see....

Town is buzzing at the moment with the holiday season well and truly on its way. Although it's great to see so many visitors, it is also great when at the end of August, things start to quieten and the peace and tranquillity returns to the streets, beaches and mountain walks. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Portraits in Mosaic

Luis has just returned to Asturias from a two week mosaic course in Belgium and from visiting fellow mosaicists in both Belgium and Holland. Needless to say he has had a brilliant and very productive time. The piece he chose to work on in Belgium under the tutelage of Mireille Swinnen at was based on an ageing Pierrot clown - a portrait in tessarae using a direct method in a painterly style. I was really pleased with his choice as for those of you who don't know I was once a keyboard player for a band called My Pierrot Dolls in the early 1980s (who incidentally are still playing gigs in and around Yorkshire in the UK - check them out if you get a chance). Despite a very active social programme, with Mireille's guidance he managed to complete the portrait with only the framing and mounting left to do.

Whilst in Belgium he shared some studio time with Jeannot Leenen a really talented mosaicist who you may remember created a portrait of one of our cats, Wentworth. Jeannot has very kindly now completed a second portrait, this time of Gawber so we will be able to display them in their full glory together: The Asturian Prince and The Asturian Hunter.

Luis ended his mosaic adventure in Holland and spent a few days with another great mosaicist Conny Van Der Wende who owns and runs  Tiles and Tools . Now back and filled with renewed energies, new techniques and numerous ideas, I am looking forward to his new projects... Watch this space.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

In the heat of the midday sun at La Pasera

Continuing our time specific theme for Summer it struck me the other day how life changes with the weather. Here at  La Pasera it has been very warm and muggy for the past few days with little relief from the persistent heat and overwhelming warm humid air. Unlike the rest of Spain and Europe it seems, where constant sunshine has been the order of the day, we have had short bouts of strong sunshine followed by low overcast skies which have felt equally oppressive. Not only has it had an effect on us, it has changed the entire dynamics of life in the garden.

Wentworth and Gawber are to be found in deep shade either in amongst the thick carpet of honesty and crocosmia, too drained by the heat to contemplate chasing a bathing Jay or Finch. The blackbirds scavenge dangerously close to the snoozing cats who from time to time open an eyelid when a scurrying lizard whisks by.

The birds roost in the bushes with an occasional sortie for food or water. The insects come out in force making the most of the wide and inviting flowers and nectar within. The ants march onwards in their regimented manner to their cool underground tunnels and the spiders await their pray, ready to pounce and wrap, saving the bounty for a later feast.

The lizards take advantage of the warm limestone rockery and with their flattened abdomens, soak up the heat...Whilst the grasshopper takes shade in the cavity of a Calla Lily.

The plants throughout the garden wilt, especially the young broccoli and pepper plants. The ruby red-veined leaves of the beetroot almost touch the earth and the onions leaves begin to turn golden yellow and become brittle. The harvest continues with large juicy blackberries, ruby Swiss chard and sweet, sweet beetroot whilst freshly harvested Lemon Verbena perfumes the air as it is strung up to dry.

As for the humans at La Pasera in the heat of the midday sun? Inside a cooled house or workshop, enjoying the chores of the day and taking time to enjoy the heat of the midday sun. Learning from the cats that it is best enjoyed... from a distance.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

In the still of the night at La Pasera

In the still of the night when we are asleep, the garden continues to host an array of wildlife we rarely see or think about... What happens in your garden at night?

As dusk falls, the birds call out the end of the day before roosting in bushes, trees and crevices. The bats take flight and feast on the abundant mist of midges, flies and moths and the owls fly low from perch to perch in search of mice, voles and frogs. The frogs begin their chatter and the toads sing out loud announcing their presence to passing mates. Meanwhile the snails and slugs exit their daytime refuge and take advantage of the cooler air and dew that settles on the grasses and plants, easing their journey to feast on luscious greens and petals.

Excitement grows for Wentworth and Gawber as they tune in to the music of the night. A rustle here, a flutter there, a call in the distance, both Wentworth and Gawber finely tune their senses to ensure their safety and maintain their territory. A large male stag beetle signals its presence with a loud whirring noise as it navigates the garden only to be chased by two curios and playful cats.

Every so often we sit in the darkness on the terrace and experience the sounds and sights of the night. It is amazing to think that within a few meters, creatures great and small are feeding, travelling to and fro and, on constant alert for friend or foe. It is clear that we only ever experience a fraction of the abundance of life that uses our garden.

Here is a short compilation of night-time infrared videos filmed in the wildest parts of our plot. It features, badgers, deer, fox, pine marten, hedgehog, wild boar, a raton and of course, cats. When we view the films we can often see the reflections of curious cats eyes watching from a distance. The final scene is a lovely reminder that our domesticated cats bridge the life in the garden we know and the life we rarely catch a glimpse of...


Sunday, June 21, 2015

The first day of Summer

It is a bright sunny day with blue skies punctuated by white and pale grey Columbus clouds. It is warm bordering on hot in the sun but with plenty of shaded places to keep cool, it is a lovely first day of Summer.

The first peaches were harvested today and although the tree doesn't produce much fruit, what it does produce is sweet, very peachy and juicy if left to ripen naturally. One or two have already been pecked at by the birds and then plundered by the ants but as today was getting breezy I decided to harvest the first of the undamaged crop before they fell in the gathering winds.

The mosaic terrace table top has been united with its long-awaited bases and it not only looks great, it is also functional and perfect for the glass of red as the evening sun sets. Needless to say, Luis has started another mosaic project and the list of projects in mind continues to grow apace.

One of the showiest plants we have is in full bloom near the edge of the pond. The angels fishing rod is heavy with bright pink flowers that droop towards the water and encourage lots of bees and insects.

Another plant that gives all it has when flowering is the cactus. This one is in full glorious flower, sadly they last only very few hours so to get to witness their show is a true privilege.

Other worthy contenders for showiest bloomer are the air hyacynth and the bottom meadow, both of which are at their prime.

The cats are spending most of their day in the deep shade of the bog garden where it is damp and cool but occasionally venture out from the shade of the giant Gunera leaves and soak up the warmth of the sun for a few moments but soon return to the cool and welcome shade. They are brushed daily from now on as it is flea and tick season and regular grooming means we can keep an eye out for attacks. They are also fast loosing their winter coats so they seem to welcome a daily brush.

You might have heard of the Andrex puppy? Well we seem to have an Aubretia pussy who has taken to finding comfort when relieving himself resulting in large dying patches...I won't publicly name and shame, I'll leave it up to you to decide who is the guilty party!


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

1,600 Euros raised for Rosie and her stable mates.

This week we visited El Paraiso del Burro (The Donkey Paradise) in Arobes to hand over the total monies raised for the Caring for Rosie Challenge. It has been a wonderful three months with 50 people making donations and many more helping us to promote the cause and spread the word about the wonderful work Marleen and and the team of volunteers do at the sanctuary.

Through Go Fund Me, we sought sponsorship for Luis' three sporting challenges; mountain cycling, mountain walking and endurance cycling. We managed to raise a fantastic £1250 which after Go Fund Me fees translated into 1,600 Euros. The money will help to care for Rosie, her stable mates (24 other retired and abused donkeys), help to feed and shelter the volunteers and enable some maintenance work to be undertaken at the Sanctuary.

Rosie is doing well with her prosthetic hooves and daily leg massages and despite her walking problems she manages to wander around the lush verges and fields on a daily basis and live a happy and content life amongst other donkeys in paradise.

The sanctuary still needs your support and it would help if you would consider becoming a member of El Paraiso del Burro or sponsoring one of the donkeys, details of which can be found here: Or maybe you fancy volunteering in this beautiful region of Spain? If you do, give us a shout.....

Thank you, your kind thought and generous acts were respectfully received.

Best wishes

Luis and Ian x