Morito

Little Moor. That’s one translation for one of Spain’s most beautiful natural treasures, a gaudy creature of swamps and marshes that we know as the glossy ibis. Dressed as it is in chocolate brown with feathers that flash green and purple in the sunlight, it’s easy to see how this characterful bird got its name: its very being evokes another world, one that lies across the Mediterranean sea, of men of small stature dressed in jewels and shimmering silks. The Moors and their Spanish kingdom are long gone, but there are hints of that world all around to this day – if you know where to look.

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You can spot a flock of ibises from a long way off by their colour alone. The wetlands in which they live, such as the Doñana National Park, teem with white herons, egrets, spoonbills and flamingos, all of which stand out a mile against the Spanish skies. Down on the ground, however, the ibis is a good deal more conspicuous, rummaging around in the water in groups that can number as much as a hundred strong. Like their wading cousins, ibises fly in a loose V-formation. It’s quite a sight to watch them going to and from their roosts as the sun sets at the end of the day, with flocks departing in waves for the security of the trees. I’ve lost count of the number of times I used to stand on the rusty fences that border the village of El Rocío to watch hundreds of ibises, egrets, herons and ducks all making their way into the park interior.

You might think a bird as beautiful as the ibis would have a beautiful voice to match. You’d be wrong. As is so often the case in the world of birds, the best feathers do not necessarily mean the best voice. Ibises, like flamingoes, have a very inelegant call, low and grunting, not too dissimilar to a cow on helium. They make a whole host of other sounds at their roost sites, but I’ll leave you to discover that for yourself. It’s quite the experience. And, I might add, quite the smell, too.

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These are the ibises that the Egyptians worshipped. Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom, was often portrayed with an ibis’ head. According to one legend, a plague of winged serpents descended upon Egypt every spring, only to be stopped at a mountain pass by scores of ‘ibis birds’ which devoured them all. Herodotus claimed that the birds of this particular legend were jet-black, which points towards the morito. This leaves their close cousins, the stately sacred ibises, in a bit of a fix; and if you have ever seen their kind rummaging around in refuse dumps as they are wont to do, their smaller, darker morito appears far more worthy of worship.

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Morito surely is a fitting name for such a princely creature. Spain has a long love-hate relationship with its African past, which centuries of church doctrine and cultural genocide have failed to quell. Al-Andalus faded into the fabric of history centuries ago, but it left behind the ibis, and it soothes my heart a little to think that maybe, just maybe, I am watching the spirits of that most beautiful and industrious past when I see a flock of moritos flying by.

BB x

Leaping Liebsters, Batman

It surprises me often and anew just how many folks I know keep up with this little blog of mine. It surprises me further just how many folks I don’t know keep up with it, too. I’d hardly call myself a prolific blogger. I write what I can when I can. I seldom proofread my material (and doesn’t it show?). I really dislike the process of travel writing. And I don’t even read that many blogs myself. Beyond the writing process itself, I’m something of a stranger to the blogging community. But it keeps my writing muscles flexed on a regular basis, and that’s good enough for me.

So it surprises me even more that superstar Mary at Mary, She Wrote nominated me for a Liebster Award! But, on the understanding that one does not question manna, I’ll take it and pass it on gladly. If you haven’t already stumbled upon her wonderfully positive blog, be sure to take a stroll there sometime, it’s a garden of upbeat sunshine! I made a point of sliding a read of her latest entries into my morning routine last month and it put a smile on my face every time, so if you ever need a smile-doctor, she’s your lady!

Onwards. To the nitty-gritty.

Liebster rules

 

Q&A with Mary

[Disclaimer: For the sake of entertainment, I’ve put words into your mouth here, Mary. I hope you don’t mind. As an interview, it has a little more spunk to it!]

Mary: Alright, let’s get started. Tell me, why did you start blogging?

BB: Originally? Because I wanted to write, and I was born into a generation where getting your own material out there for the world to see was easy enough for a fourteen-year old birdwatcher to operate. I sort of let that slide when real life took over, and got back into the game once again in my second year at university. It’s been sort of non-stop from there, I guess.

Mary: Okay. Tea or coffee?

BB: Tea. Green, if you can help it, though a Rooibos wouldn’t go amiss. A mint tea would be pretty fabulous, though. I don’t suppose you have any fresh mint on you right now?

Mary: Sadly, no.

BB: Shame. Throw me the next question.

Mary: Alright then. Do you have a life motto or an inspirational quote you try to live by?

BB: Don’t drive when you can cycle. Don’t cycle when you can run. And don’t run when you walk. You’ll see more of the world that way.

Mary: Um… okay. Tell me your guilty pleasure.

BB: The Spice Girls. Spiceworld is the real deal.

Mary: Is that really a guilty pleasure?

BB: Well, I’m not a card-carrying Spice Girls fanboy, if that’s what you mean. But I am partial to a little Spice Girls from time to time.

Mary: What is your favourite time of year and why?

BB: Spring. Autumn is beautiful with all of its colours and sounds and the feeling of change, but here in Badajoz you hardly notice the slide from summer to winter. Spring, however, is universal. The world puts on her best dress, the birds are singing, there’s blossom in the trees and winter is over in a field of crisp, blue skies. My heart sings.

Mary: Well, since we’re on that note, how about describing yourself in a haiku?

BB: …Give me a minute.

Mary: Take your time.

BB: Almost got a First / I mean, sixty-nine point four / that’s close enough, right?

Mary: Are you seriously still bitter about that?

BB: …..no. Next question.

Mary: What is your signature recipe and why do you like to make it?

BB: Lentejas a la abuela, most likely. It’s amazing comfort-food for a throw-together dish that has the added bonus of making use of any bread that might have gone stale. Plus it’s earthy and warm.

Mary: What’s in it?

BB: Lentils, breadcrumbs, garlic, a little stock and a few pieces of chorizo. And lashings of olive oil, of course.

Mary: Of course. Do you have any favourite jokes?

BB: Apart from my degree?

Mary: That joke is old and you know it.

BB: I kid, I kid. I don’t actually have a favourite joke to hand, I’m afraid. Tevye has a few golden lines in Fiddler on the Roof that always make me laugh, though.

Mary: What is your favourite mode of transport and why?

BB: From the couple of months of lessons I had as a teenager, I’d say horseback is pretty fantastic, when you know what you’re doing. But old habits die hard, and when it comes to hurtling down country lanes, there’s nothing better than a trusty bike.

Mary: That’s something I can agree with. We’re nearly there. Do you have any hidden talents?

BB: I’m a pretty good bird mimic.

Mary: Would you say that’s a hidden talent?

BB: I would say it’s a talent I don’t pull out so often for the sake of public decency.

Mary: Ok. Last one, then. Tell me your best dinner party anecdote about yourself.

BB: Do you mean about a dinner party I’ve hosted or attended? Or the kind of anecdote I’d reel out at a dinner party?

Mary: The last one.

BB: Well, that’d have to be the run-in with the Guardia Civil when I was fifteen. It’s a tale that’s a little long in the telling, but to keep a long story short, I was detained for not having my papers on me by Fidel Castro’s doppelganger and his two lackeys when all I really wanted to do was walk home across country after a morning spent photographing  vultures.

Mary: I don’t think you could have said anything more you.

BB: Lady, I’d have to agree with you there.

 

11 Random Facts About Myself:

  1. I keep a journal on me at all times, even at work.
  2. I haven’t ever crossed the Atlantic.
  3. When I was younger, I wanted to be a photographer.
  4. I have a very poor sense of smell.
  5. I absolutely love it when it rains.
  6. I frequently leave objects hanging or balanced in strange places.
  7. I don’t actually like listening to a cappella music by choice.
  8. I used to have fifteen Joe Browns shirts. Presently I have just the one.
  9. I have a triple crown, which makes styling my hair particularly problematic.
  10. People seem to know I’m British wherever I go, except once in Germany, where I was mistaken for a German.
  11. I say I’ll eat everything except liquorice, not because I dislike it per se, but because the buck’s gotta stop somewhere.

 

My Nomination(s):

Lang Adults (langadults.wordpress.com)

 

Questions for my Nominee(s):

  1. Why do you blog?
  2. What’s your worst food memory?
  3. What’s your favourite word and why?
  4. Do you have any favourite herbs or spices?
  5. If I say the word HOPE, what do you think of?
  6. What’s more important to you, the lyrics or the music itself?
  7. Pick a Nicolas Cage film title to describe where you are in life right now.
  8. What exactly would you do with £248.76? You have to spend every last penny.
  9. If you could only be left with one sound memory (non-musical), what would it be and why?
  10. Everyone’s had a think about their wedding playlist, but what (if anything) would you want played at your funeral?
  11. I’m going to drop you in the middle of Kyrgyzstan with a bottle of water, a map and a compass. Tell me three other things you feel you might need to get by.

 

I guess that makes for a good shot at this. Are there any other challenges like this out there in the blogosphere, I wonder? I reckon we could do with a challenge to take up at this cold and grey time of year.

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Lisbon’s Padrão dos Descobrimentos shortly before New Year’s Day

And now, back to the job applications. À tout à l’heure, folks. BB x

Five Set Up A Restaurant

Our four-day stay in Lisbon has come to an end. We devoured our final pastéis breakfast in the hotel room as the café was already full. We checked out shortly before twelve and took our leave of Belém for the city. Now Portugal is racing by outside in a grey-green blur of clouds, cork-oaks and tarmac. We have our bolo-rei for the 5th (a large, ring-shaped cake for the celebration of the coming of the Three Wise Men), which is a nice change; I don’t think I’ve had a gateau-de-roix since primary school.

But that’s enough of that. Let me get to the meat of the article.

Lisbon isn’t the easiest place to find a good spot to eat at six o’clock on New Year’s Day (nowhere is, I guess, but it was our lot to be in Lisbon at that time on that day, and Lisbon, it must be said, has a lot more choice than Belém). Or at least, that’s what all the websites said. It turns out that most of that was fake news – a highly appropriate term, whoever coined it first – as there were a fair few establishments open for business. Unfortunately, the local cafés and bars were not among them. Seeking a semblance of affordable quality in the inner city, we took a side street and were instantly set upon by three jockeys, all hustling for our custom. Out of sheer boredom if nothing else, we settled for the woman in the puffy pink coat who asked us ‘just to look’ at the dodgy photograph of a grilled sea-bream she was thrusting before our noses. Typically you can get two results from such establishments: sleazy-greasy service, or a surprisingly satisfying meal. So we went for that one.

I’ll be honest. The food was decent. I’d have been a better judge if I didn’t have the cold of the century, reducing the capabilities of my already abysmal sense of smell to that of a clogged vacuum cleaner, but for a place that offers patatas with every dish and actually serves up potatoes instead of chips, I’ll give them a star for honesty. But it’s not the honesty for which you should visit. It’s the staff.

The staff of Restaurante Cadete are far and away the establishment’s USP. Why? Well, primarily because there’s absolutely no way of knowing that they work there. Everyone has their own look. On the outset they might all be the clientele, and it’s only when they jump you with a notepad that you realise they’re on the job. The lady in pink was Russian and her hustle style was practically Moroccan in its friendly push-push ‘just to look, just to look’ way. One waiter, a charming Asian lad in a striped jumper, delivered our order with a cheery, eloquent manner. Another waitress in a purple turtleneck sweater said not a word as she tidied away our meal. But the cream of the crop was the chirpy chappie dressed in a smart beige coat with white chinos, a blue tie and a small tuft of blond hair. He might have been Polish, or German, or something else, if not Portuguese. I honestly took him for a street performer as he stumbled over to take our order, given his whimsical charm and gauche dress. I haven’t ever seen a waiter bring the card machine and pretend it’s a phone before handing it over before, and I might not again. It seems childish but, at the end of a long day, it was immensely entertaining. Dinner and a show. What more could you ask for?

We never met the chef (one rarely does), though I’m willing to bet he was a character as well. For sheer personality, I’d give the place a 4/5.

Work starts again a week tomorrow. I wonder what adventures the new year will bring? BB x