A Rose For Winter
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Andalusia is a passion - and fifteen years after his last visit Laurie Lee returned. He found a country broken by the Civil War, but the totems of indestructible Spain survive: the Christ in agony, the thrilling flamenco cry-the pride in poverty, the gypsy intensity in vivid whitewashed slums, the cult of the bullfight, the exultation in death, the humour of hopelessness-the paradoxes deep in the fiery bones of Spain. Rich with kaleidoscopic images, A Rose for Winter is as sensual and evocative as the sun-scorched landscape of Andalusia itself.
drumskins, and tins which they scraped with sticks. At a word they would surround one and sing a whole concert for a penny. They were of all ages from four to fourteen, and they threw back their heads and sang with the ease and eagerness of angels, striking clear cool harmonies, and beating out the most subtle rhythms on their assorted instruments. Some blew into water-jars, making deep base notes; some rattled dried peas in boxes; others shook loose tin-lids threaded on a stick. I never tired of
‘You wan’ good Swiss?’ he said hurriedly. ‘You wan’ Park-air Fifty-one? Come on, fella. Cost you nothin’. Is very cheap. Is contrabando.’ I paused to take him in. Meanwhile, he kept edging away, looking quickly to right and to left, like a wild animal at a water-hole, too nervous to drink. Ah, contrabando. Sweet fruit of Algeciras. I dodged behind him and slipped into my hotel. I was back indeed, and there was a loud ticking in my ears. In our hotel we were soon part of the furniture, polished
quayside in front of the hotel, walking slowly up and down and trailing his limp leg after him. Our room began to burst with bread, and smuggling it out to the beggars became a major conspiracy. Mysterious serenaders appeared under our window, hired by the baker, who hovered ghost-like in a doorway while they played. The daily gift of loaves grew more and more exotic in shape, their crusts decorated with hearts and flowers, with moons and stars, with pretty angels, even with our names – though
laughter; the stairways full of the songs of chambermaids, and the beds full of fleas – the progenitors of long exhausted dreams. But the food was plentiful. Our first meal, served at half-past two that afternoon, offered us olives, sardines, shellfish, prawns, a large dish of rice served with meat and saffron, flan and fruit, and a bottle of wine fetched in for a shilling. After such a meal, drenched in the green, brutish, stimulating oils of the hills, there was nothing one could do. So we
and glazed images that furnish them. And here are born many of those penniless but inspired exponents of the popular Spanish arts – incomparable guitarists and dancers, feverish poets and small-boned, hot-eyed boys who go early to the bulls, and whose hunger, valour and excesses lead them to swift, unnatural deaths. We walked among the riverside huts and dwellings, saw an old lady sitting in a doorway chewing dried cod, saw a girl of five dancing solemnly under an old wall, saw a boy fighting a