Sunday, November 30, 2008

wall business, Almagro, good read

Posted by Picasa Interesting things go on in walls and sprout from them.

In conversation with a friend, who is reading Don Quixote, I recall - it must be 25 years ago - driving across the dusty plain of La Mancha south of Ciudad Real. Our destination was the town of Almagro where we were to stay in one of the state owned paradors, a former convent. The town was famous for two things - its 16th century theatre on one side of an unspoilt arcaded square of the same era, and a gastronomic speciality - pickled berenjenas or aubergines. The theatre retains its original pit open to the sky and must have seen original performances of the plays of Lope de Vega and Calderon de la Barca. It is still used for drama festivals today. The aubergines were sold in specially made earthenware pots, which added greatly to their charm. I doubts if this expensive form of packaging for such simple fare is available today, but I know that the aubergines can still be bought in specialist food stores. What was most interesting about the spicy brine in which they are pickled is that the recipe goes back to the occupation of Spain by the Moors, as does the word berenjenas. In doing some research at the time, I found an almost identical recipe for the pickle, which originated far away from La Mancha in the Middle East.

Recent conversations here and elsewhere about books, read and unread, puts me in mind of my Mother, who was a member of Boots Lending Library, now long forgotten as a source of reading matter. Unlike my father, she would not have called herself a bookish person, and, if pressed on the matter, would have admitted that there might be too many books around, unused and gathering dust, for comfort. She did, however, like a good read and was not too troubled about what it might consist of. Boots lending library branches were invariably on the upper floors of the chemist shops, with which the name, Boots was and still is chiefly associated. And she would often send me, an eager 8-year old, upstairs, while engaged in shopping downstairs, to exchange the book she had recently finished. "Just tell the girls, I want a light novel", she would say. "They know what I've read". For a long time the term "light novel" seemed to me to be about its avoirdupois , something to be added to the burden of potatoes and cabbages in the shopping basket, rather than the nature of its content, and even today, when reading a large and heavy duty book in bed (how much more manoeuvrable are paperbacks), I can hear her reminding me to ask for a light novel, and think to myself, that she may well have been right in her preferences.

6 comments:

Lucy said...

What a lovely post!

Brinjal,which sounds like berenjenas, which also sounds like aubergine, is of course the Indian word, and a friend of South African origin also calls them that, as I think it came from the Malay workers there who introduced, or at least favoured them in their cooking. Aubergine always seems a curious word for them, I imagine, falsely of course, their being a favoured vegetable at auberges! They are perhaps my very favourite of all, if I were forced to make a choice.

Celia Johnson's character in Brief Encounter had, I seem to recall, just taken some books back to Boots when she met Trevor Howard...

Clare said...

Oh Lucy, I was going to say that about Brief Encounter, but you beat me to it. We watched it just last week (I'd never seen it before, but it's one of Nick's favourites ever).

Dave King said...

Walls have long been one of my special areas for study. The colours in them, their varying textures and the features you mention and comment so interestingly upon. A much-appreciated post.

Plutarch said...

It occurred to me at the time that the episode was a sort Brief Encounter but without the steam trains, the grit in the eye and the guilt. Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson? Well the characters wern't too far off.

Dave:
"Some man or other must present Wall; and let him have some plaster or loam, or some roughcast about him, to signify wall; and let him hold his fingers thus, and through that cranny shall Pyramus and Thisbe whisper."

Barrett Bonden said...

I was given a Boots library ticket as a birthday present though I can't say I ever met anyone looking remotely like Celia Johnson there. As I recall the books had all been specially rebound for Boots and there was something like a metal-rimmed laces hole in the spine, presumably to allow the attachment of a bookmark.

But what constitutes a light novel? One by Frances Parkinson Keyes or by (forget his first name) Farjeon?

Plutarch said...

As I was so busy reading the works of W E Johns and Arthur Ransome, I am afraid I didn't notice what the light novels were. But there was a large gold and green hardback book by Francis Parkinson Keyes on the shelf where my Mother kept her few books. I don't think she was a fan of Elinor Fargeon. But why do I know her name? And why do you half know it?