The Diary of a Botany Beginner

22nd January 2019

Ahead of Las Chimeneas’ first Botany Week at the end of March, with botanist Mark Spencer, amateur naturalist David Urry takes us through his first botanising forays in Las Alpujarras.

Confetti of the Gods

27th January 2018

Let's consider again the almond tree. And what a fabulous, beautiful yet utterly dunder-headed bit of timber it is. Completely, ethereally lovely, yet in truth an apple short of a picnic, if you can forgive this arboreal mixing of metaphor. 


22nd April 2016

From time to time we now take little groups around the cities of Andalucia, and so there we were, having tried and failed by minutes to see the Monastery of San Jeronimo. That doesn't sound like much of a defeat , does it? Not to normal people anyway. 

Confessions of a reluctant yogi

9th November 2015

Let's be clear about one thing : As a Northerner, a Lancastrian at that, I feel that it's part of my birthright to be able to maintain a position or bear a grudge which is completely devoid of all intellectual or moral foundation. Passionately, vindictively, eternally. That's just the way we do things up there.

Emma’s moveable breakfast

7th September 2015

I am busy re-acquainting myself with the delights of the moveable breakfast. If ever you should want a good mood improver then try popping mulberries. Their sunny flavour seems to me the essence of every red fruit you've eaten, simmered for a month and then repacked into an explosion of taste.

Emma: Reflections on a parade, with flowers.

10th May 2015

It's pot planting time again. Maybe it was the arrival of the large white van, whose driver sells huge quantities of lupin, jasmine and margarita, which prompted the sudden rash of pot planting over the weekend, or perhaps simply the prospect of settled weather.

Yearning for a special place. And beer.

18th April 2015

I was taking a chainsaw to bits the other day, and as you do, reflecting lightly on theories of ethnolinguistics and general principles of linguistic relativity. Funny ways foreign people have of saying stuff, in other words. 

I have learned but lately that the heart does not grow old...

11th April 2015

I know it's only my imagination but the faces of those old people who have spent their lives on farms or close to the land seem to have a better class of wrinkle. It's hard to know exactly what it is, but the old folks round here seem to contain a dignity and expressiveness that suits the harshness of the climate and the general difficulty-of-being that many of them will have endured under the dictatorship and the anxieties that were their lot during the years of transition.

A green pat on the back for the Sierra

4th March 2015

The ancient rivalry between the kingdoms of Granada and Seville is well documented, and very much alive and kicking. Which is why the ecologists of Granada have reacted with fairly unrestricted glee to the news that the Sierra Nevada has become the first National Park in Spain to be awarded entry to the much coveted Green List of the IUCN.( the International Union for the Protection of Nature.)

Portrait of a villager

3rd March 2015

Were you to stage a play which required a composite, stereotypical version of a swarthy, scruffy Spanish rascal then my friend Pedro would walk straight into the part. This wise, be-whiskered, mocking, half-educated, dentally challenged campesino, is the real McCoy, complete with all the contradictions. 

Places that are torn and wild

20th February 2015

There are times when you're confronted by savage and untamed landscapes that make you question whether the God that made them was still practising, or if this is the finished article. I'm talking now of the huge and empty mountains that rip into the skies above Mairena, or the cruel and desolate cliffs that brawl with the seas at Cabo de Gata, the little –known promontory where we spent the last two days.

Almonds and bees

17th February 2015

All around the almond trees the air is zumming and thrumming to the sound of a billion bees. A lot, anyway. It seems to me a serious, responsible noise, one which is at once soothing and uplifting, a constant, reassuring springtime background to complement the brash bright flowers and, when you can remember to grant yourself the time, a gentle hubbub to inspire fine thoughts.

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