Category: BrighterLanguages

“Country cousins” Tortosa Free-day

Tres amics són tres cosins, tres cerveses … potser!

The term “country cousins” often pops up in English literature with no implied intention of insulting their sophistication, but rather as an affection or a tongue in cheek expression. Prior to the days of London’s Zoological gardens when friends, relatives, or strangers from the countryside were visiting the City, it was a wonder what to do or where to take them. Thus, in novels it is written to take the “country cousins” to see the Royal lions guarding at the Tower.

However, I (their birth-“Foden” Cousin from Jesús. Tortosa) was treated to the first break with my cousins( from higher up River Ebro at Benifallet) for a drink and a chat outside, since the lockdown on 14th March, 2020.

The quandary: Where do we go? We don’t have lions in Tortosa, except one statue on my gateway entrance and that doesn’t count as a place of interest. We were all in agreeance that a beer or two and some nibbles (aka tapas) to sit outside were on the cards, but preferably near greenery and not pavement side. So my cousin headed for Tortosa Parc.

We are only in Phase 1 of the opening up of Terres de l’Ebre region since the lockdown. We were all masked up and like excited kids (or thirsty camels heading towards an oasis) hurried to the freedom of the park, along with an over-excited 5 month-old Maya, the German Shepherd puppy. Oh so cute!

The tables were all well spaced out as they are to do so under the controls as stated and no inside drinking. My cousin told me not to touch the table until she’d thoughtfully brought out her mobile bleach and sponge cleaning kit. I was impressed. She also placed a sanitizer bottle on the table for us to share.

Aside: the only slightly awkward issue was the fact that we could eat and drink outside the bars, but we were not allowed to use their toilet facilities – nor any others available! So it was prudent to control your consumption. (LOL)

It was crazy busy with not enough waiters to cope. So the service was slow but the Bokatines staff were friendly, courteous, and well protected. We were all just so happy to have that time in open spaces away from our respective fincas but to people-watch instead. We have been more fortunate than most as we have not been enclosed in confined spaces of apartments – many without balconies or open roof-top places to breathe and enjoy the evening air.

However, I personally feel I have had too much of the countryside and yearn for people’s contact. My cousin asked me how I was feeling now. I replied that I keep looking at the people and feel like they are two-legged aliens that I once knew in another life. It felt so strange to be seeing so many people in, what was such a normal pre-Covid-19 area, where the bars next to each other, overflow across the main rain of Avenigua Generalitat into Tortosa Parc.

I felt exhilarated!

Sunday evening 16th May beers and tapas in Tortosa Parc




Three canyons of beer arrived with the dew running down the glass, served in gloved hands, and plates of tapas of nachos with bacon and cheese and patatas bravos with allioli. We dived on the food like hungry lion cubs and the lager beer hit the spot -every time! Well- there was one or two top-ups but no-one was really counting.


The conversation flowed to and fro between local family catch-ups about Valencianos and Brits, Californians and New Yorkers too, not to leave out our nephew and niece in Japan. Much discussion of how this pandemic has impacted everyone personally and their private lives, their businesses, and those in the tourist rental industries. Yet, everyone seems to have continued working online, new projects, existing projects, and finding activities to occupy themselves. It is encouraging to hear that Germans are still enquiring to come down to Spain, just aren’t allowed across borders if no Spanish residencies in place.

So please tell me:

~ How has your first week in Phase 1 passed in Terres de l’Ebre?

~How do you envisage improving or changing anything in the coming week while still in Phase1?

~What ideas or motivation can you share within the community?

(c) Tales from the Ebro River Valley: RosieReay

Change in the historic “Book & Rose Festival” day.

No, El Dia del Llibre is not cancelled in 2020, merely moved forward to July 23rd after the Covid-19 virus lockdown is lifted, (even if social distancing must still be strictly adhered to), the show must go on! I for one would love to see the national dance of Catalonia, Sardana, performed in Barcelona’s Plaça Sant Jaume or even to attend one of the bars where they have 24-hour Readathon (if a lady of my age can stay awake that long. Hmm!)

Sant Jordi’s Importance to the Catalans

23rd of April is known as Sant Jordi’s fiesta day throughout Spain, but he is the patron saint of Catalonia. The Catalans’ attitude towards this romantic celebration of giving books (El Dia del Llibre)and roses (El Dia de la Rosa) on this special feast day is of unwavering importance to each and every one of them. The gift of roses has dated back to medieval times as a romantic gesture. Yet, it was only a lover of all literature Barcelona bookseller who in 1923 started promoting this bookselling day in esteem remembrance of some of our greatest writers in Shakespeare the Bard and Miguel Cervantes, who both deceased on this same day.

The legends of Sant Jordi slaying the dragon and saving the princess (Montblanc, Medieval festival, Catalonia- except cancelled this year) have been written about in many children’s books in as many languages. I have often favoured to use them in tutoring materials for youngsters. Today, I still delight in reading them myself.

However, in March Catalan News reported that “the Som cooperative and the Mortensen agency launched the #LlibreriesObertes campaign“. This is an innovative way to assist the booksellers who would suffer an untold financial loss during this crisis where they normally sell over 800,000 books on this one day. Thus, this scheme allows us during the virus isolation period to order and pre-paid (the money is forward immediately to the bookshops to keep them afloat) for the books of our choice and post-lockdown we can pop along and pick them up. These co-operatives were encouraging the people to come out on their balconies and read out loud from a chosen book today. How cool is that?

The Florists who make the lion share of their income on Sant Jordi’s day were also encouraging people to order their flowers online and to decorate their balconies still in the celebration of this feast.

2020, 23rd April-Barcelona to Terres del Ebre

So how did you spend this day?

I was delighted to wake up to see some awesome and cleverly crafted cartoons being shared with me across both Facebook and WhatsApp. They were so clever and so depicted the times we live in under this pandemic. I think these cartoonists justly deserve praise and airing to those who did not see them. They say a picture speaks a thousand words – well, these did speak to me as a voracious reader.

Then another writer/artist friend of mine Nuria Vives who usually resides on the outskirts of the Ebro Delta sent me a deserted street photo of Barcelona – a view from her Mums apartment. This crossroads junction (Arago’ Street) would pre-shutdown be hustling and bustling and full of people on the street celebrating El Dia del Llibre. Furthermore, knowing my obsession with books shared a quotation/drawing from “one of the most beautiful books I have read,” by Antoine de Saint Exupery, l’auteur aussi des dessins – The little Prince. So I look forward to reading both the English and French versions.

A young romantic couple sent me a lovely photo of themselves with a cheery message, “Much love from Jesus, El Canalet, “Jaume and Fressia. Due to the closure of businesses in Barcelona they have returned to spend isolation in the countryside, just outside Tortosa. They are fortunate to now have a garden/land to walk about in, unlike many confined to their apartments with or without balconies back in the capital. Yet, I’m sure they would have preferred to have been able to celebrate Sant Jordi’s day in the traditional Catalan way if we were virus-free. At least they are thankfully safe!

A close friend and another prolific reader, Araceli who hales from the Tortosa area, shared my sentiments indeed when she posted today quoting Oscar Wilde “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”

I smiled to myself as I’ve started re-reading one of my favourite books (in English) of a well-known author from Catalonia: Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind while I was sitting on my finca admiring my roses coming into bloom.

Well, while the likes of Araceli and myself await the libraries re-opening or personally pouring over umpteen bookstalls (now 23rd July, 2020) and finally hand-picking an armful of literary geniuses that we have not read, we will merely make-do with what we have in-house. (Charles Dickens and Shakespeare I’ve read several times and will again.) Yes, my soul-sister as you rightly say we will never be deprived of our love of literature, no matter how strange the confinements were on this Saint George’s day.

Aside: I look forward to you sharing your experiences and photographs in my Comments .

April 23rd in World History:

  • 1154 Damascus surrenders to Sultan Nur ad-Din van Aleppo
  • 1229 Ferdinand 111 of Castile conquers Cáceres
  • 1343 St.George’s Night Uprising in Estonia
  • 1348 1st English order of knighthood founded (Order of the Garter)
  • 1456 Sant Jordi (Saint George) became the patron saint of Catalonia,
  • 1504 King Maximillan 1 route troops to Bavaria
  • 1616 simultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare
  • 1926 El Dia del Llibre (The Day of the Book) officially declared
  • 1988 ‘Pa de Sant Jordi‘ culinary tradition for April 23rd was created by master baker Eduard Cresp at La Feca Balmes in Barcelona
  • In 1995, UNESCO adopted 23 April as WORLD BOOK DAY

(c) Tales from the Ebro River Valley: RosieReay

Ebro Valley crop circles cultivation- Camarles style.

Crop circles mysteries have baffled us over the history of time. We have marvelled in their beauty, their mysteries, legends of ominous satanic work at large, questionable hoaxers, climatic changes, studied by the intellectual professors, Crop circle (s) are preserved in stunning photographs until the end of time or even aliens landing (fringe theorists) and working their ‘butts off’ through the night while farmers slept.

Liz Crichton (started her project around 2017) gave thanks in 2018 saying: ”And still our wonderful crop circles keep producing! #abundance#gratitude”. Now wait a minute, Ayrshire tatties grown by a Scottish lassie relocated to the countryside in Camarles, Terres del Ebre? I’m awfully impressed as the climatic conditions could not be at more opposite extremes. I for one will hint for a specimen from next harvest to try one ‘lonely’ plant to propagate. After all, I was not nicknamed by my brother as Spud, when I was no more than knee-high to a grasshopper, for nothing!

So how does Liz still do it in 2020? Here is what was relayed to me as I lamented about my rock hard Spanish soil ideal for olive plantation, but vegetables-really?

“Crop circles – without a doubt!”

Take all your composting materials, cuttings, weeds, food compost waste twigs etc., and gradually layer the inside any size circle that is manageable for you to reach a circumference of 4 metres and a depth of 25cm. The tougher twigs /cuttings go on the bottom. Create a thick layer and stamp it down under your boot(advisable to wear on the el campo), then fill up the rest with mixed layers (any old way works). Finally, tramp it down again and water it.

Crop circle preparation

Once it has created a kind of dense vegetation mat you can immediately pour over a whole 70-litre bag of compost on top and plant in either seeds or plugs of anything that grows upwards i.e. lettuce, chard, spinach and so on.

crop circle young lettuce

In the 2nd year (or winter) top the circles up with another bag of your compost material and you can grow deep plants, like potatoes, carrots beetroot or even parsnips, as by then your initial compost material will be turning into soil in your crop circle. It is important to line the edges of your wire with the drying grass or weeds to save the new compost or precious water flowing away.

Crop circle 1st year growth

After the 2nd year, you can remove the encircled wire meshing and spread the compost and dig into your ground. It will now be soil down to a depth of 6″ (15.24cm) because of the worm activity and water( you can hand water if irrigation is not doable) that has nourished below your circles!

End of crop circle year 2: Ayrshire potatoes

“This year I’ve used a light sprinkling of 15/15/15 feed to once a week with great results!”

Multi Crop circles

“Mind you, I talk to them as well!” quipped Liz Crichton, “and I always ask before I pick and use www.moonandgarden.com“. The Moon & Garden is guided by the moon’s influence. Avery nifty application (French, English, Spanish, Italian, German and Dutch) as your coordinator to optimize your daily ‘best to do’ organic gardening by using biodynamics to use earth’s energy of the sun and moon enhanced with your personalized recording of Calendar, Gallery and action Alarms.

“May I pick you now, por favor?”

However, this is not a new-fangled idea amongst the traditional farmers in this valley. When we first moved to our Finca (2005), Partida de San Bernabe’, our neighbours aka. vecinos, came across to see what small vegetable plants for sewing I had just proudly bought. (I say proudly as my run of Spanish verbiage was almost non-existant!) He muttered away through his toothless grin in Catalan -no normal, no no- HIs wife explained in Spanish that I must only plant according to the moon cycle as his grandfathers had always done –Siempre– I considered myself rightly told off!

(c)Tales from the Ebro River Valley: RosieReay

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