Womanifesto – Gracias a la vida

I was born 67 years ago in the house next door, back in England now.  In April 2017 I was admitted to hospital, in Cabueñes, Gijón, Asturias, Spain with metastasis of breast cancer.  It was an extraordinary experience: I was euphoric, and for several weeks didn´t sleep more than two hours a night.  It coincided with the full moon, which made its way across the window in my room, the outline of Monte Deva opposite.

I thought it was about time I learnt the words to this beautiful song by Violeta Parra: Ive attached a workmanlike translation, for my English readers, but the lyrics are so beautiful that it deserves an effort by a poet.

The photos used in the video show what to me constitutes feminine beauty: passionate creativity, and no make-up.

You´ll find it here: https://youtu.be/w67-hlaUSIs

Thanks to life

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.

It gave me two stars, which when I open them,

Perfectly distinguish black from white

And in the tall sky its starry backdrop,

And within the multitudes the one that I love.


Thanks to life, which has given me so much.

It gave me hearing that, in all of its reach

Records night and day crickets and canaries,

Hammers and turbines, bricks and storms,

And the tender voice of my beloved.


Thanks to life, which has given me so much.

It gave me sound and the alphabet.

With them the words I think and declare:

“Mother,” “Friend,” “Brother” and light shining down on

The road of the soul of the one I’m loving.


Thanks to life, which has given me so much.

It gave me the steps of my tired feet.

With them I have traversed cities and puddles

Valleys and deserts, mountains and plains.

And your house, your street and your garden.


Thanks to life, which has given me so much.

It gave me this heart that shakes its frame,

When I see the fruit of the human brain,

When I see good so far from evil,

When I look into the depth of your light eyes…


Thanks to life, which has given me so much.

It gave me laughter and it gave me tears.

With them I distinguish happiness from pain

The two elements that make up my song,

And your song, as well, which is the same song.

And everyone’s song, which is my very song.


Sueño cumplido – I realised my dream

it was my dream to live in a foreign port, writing. And I´ve had the most wonderful time fulfilling it. Amongst warm, vigorous, enthusiastic creative people, I´ve had so many great experiences – from exploring prehistoric rock art to climbing mountains, swimming daily in the sea (not right through the winter!), lots of great live music: but it all came to a grinding halt with a metastasis of breast cancer. I´m getting better, but I´ve been in hospital for weeks and weeks, and have got very weak for being in bed so much.
I´ve got too much I want to say, but the most important is so much love to my friends here in Spain and in England who have sent me so much support: gratitude for these twelve wonderful years in Asturias: and the internet makes parting so much easier: I hope to stay in touch recounting my adventures here, but it´ll be a little while until I get settled back in England.

Sueño cumplido
Era mi sueño vivir en un puerto en el extranjero, escribiendo. He tenido una etapa maravillosa cumpliendola. Con gente cariñosa y creativa, he tenido tantas experiencias maravillosas: explorando al arte rupestre, caminando por el monte, nadando en la mar a diario (¡no por el invierno!) música en directo maravilloso: pero tenia otra metastasis de cancer de mama, y sali – con vida, gracias al servicio de salud, pero muy debil después de tanto tiempo en la cama.
Tengo demasiado cosas que quiero decir, pero lo mas importante es enviar tanto amor a mis amigos aqúi en España y en inglaterra que me han dado tanto apoyo: gratitude por esos doce años maravillosos en Asturias. Menos mal que el internet nos pone las despedidas mas fácil: espero mantener contacto hablando de mis aventuras, en el pasado y el presente aqui en el blog, pero voy a tardar un ratín a establecerme en inglaterra.


I´m loving myself out of cancer, and I eat delicious and nutricious food, which results in silent deadly farts. So I go equipped with a box of matches, to burn the smell off.

The science: methane carries the offensive sulphide molecules – striking a light burns it off.  There seems to be pretty general agreement that farts are better out, than in, although there´s the smell and the embarrassment.  

The etymology:     At the risk of damaging the “special relationship” between the UK and the USA, I´d like to point out that in in UK English, trump is a commonly known synonym for fart. But it never crossed the Atlantic. Maybe an outstanding example of “two countries divided by a common language”  to quote George Bernard Shaw.

If you think that  Trump fills the world with toxic gases, I invite you to strike a light, in the interests of clean air.  If I just make one person giggle, I´ll feel happy to have made a contribution to World environment day.  The world is full of loving, caring, intelligent  humans. We and mother nature deserve better.

clean air!

Strike a  light for trump

– let´s start laughing.

Poetry: Where eer ye be, Let yer wind gang free
(Sounds jist the job fir thee an me)
Whit a fuss at Rabbies pairty
Ower the sake o wan wee ferty.


Haiku for Cris, by someone who can´t count

Hands of a competent cook, eyes of a gazelle. This came to me one night watching Cris Montull playing: she´s a pianist and composer living here in Gijón – love her! When I find a photo you´ll see what I mean – and if I can get a sound clip too – !  In haste, […]



of a competent cook,

eyes of a gazelle.

This came to me one night watching Cris Montull playing: she´s a pianist and composer living here in Gijón – love her!

When I find a photo you´ll see what I mean – and if I can get a sound clip too – !  In haste, I´ve already burnt my dinner.

Clever Cris has just won the AMAS (Asturian Music Awards – freely translated) for keyboards – here you can hear a microscopic quote from her playing – and not such a good photo as here! http://www.premiosamas.com/premios.asp

Sing on, sweet bird


photo by John Wright, who has the lore to get close enough to a nightingale singing, as described in John Clare´s poem

The Nightingale´s Nest

Up this green woodland-ride let’s softly rove,
And list the nightingale – she dwells just here.
Hush ! let the wood-gate softly clap, for fear
The noise might drive her from her home of love ;
For here I’ve heard her many a merry year –
At morn, at eve, nay, all the live-long day,
As though she lived on song. This very spot,
Just where that old-man’s-beard all wildly trails
Rude arbours o’er the road, and stops the way –
And where that child its blue-bell flowers hath got,
Laughing and creeping through the mossy rails –
There have I hunted like a very boy,
Creeping on hands and knees through matted thorn
To find her nest, and see her feed her young.
And vainly did I many hours employ :
All seemed as hidden as a thought unborn.
And where those crimping fern-leaves ramp among
The hazel’s under boughs, I’ve nestled down,
And watched her while she sung ; and her renown
Hath made me marvel that so famed a bird
Should have no better dress than russet brown.
Her wings would tremble in her ecstasy,
And feathers stand on end, as ’twere with joy,
And mouth wide open to release her heart
Of its out-sobbing songs. The happiest part
Of summer’s fame she shared, for so to me
Did happy fancies shapen her employ ;
But if I touched a bush, or scarcely stirred,
All in a moment stopt. I watched in vain :
The timid bird had left the hazel bush,
And at a distance hid to sing again.
Lost in a wilderness of listening leaves,
Rich Ecstasy would pour its luscious strain,
Till envy spurred the emulating thrush
To start less wild and scarce inferior songs ;
For while of half the year Care him bereaves,
To damp the ardour of his speckled breast ;
The nightingale to summer’s life belongs,
And naked trees, and winter’s nipping wrongs,
Are strangers to her music and her rest.
Her joys are evergreen, her world is wide –
Hark! there she is as usual – let’s be hush –
For in this black-thorn clump, if rightly guest,
Her curious house is hidden. Part aside
These hazel branches in a gentle way,
And stoop right cautious ’neath the rustling boughs,
For we will have another search to day,
And hunt this fern-strewn thorn-clump round and round ;
And where this reeded wood-grass idly bows,
We’ll wade right through, it is a likely nook :
In such like spots, and often on the ground,
They’ll build, where rude boys never think to look –
Aye, as I live ! her secret nest is here,
Upon this white-thorn stump ! I’ve searched about
For hours in vain. There! put that bramble by –
Nay, trample on its branches and get near.
How subtle is the bird ! she started out,
And raised a plaintive note of danger nigh,
Ere we were past the brambles ; and now, near
Her nest, she sudden stops – as choking fear,
That might betray her home. So even now
We’ll leave it as we found it : safety’s guard
Of pathless solitudes shall keep it still.
See there! she’s sitting on the old oak bough,
Mute in her fears ; our presence doth retard
Her joys, and doubt turns every rapture chill.
Sing on, sweet bird! may no worse hap befall
Thy visions, than the fear that now deceives.
We will not plunder music of its dower,
Nor turn this spot of happiness to thrall ;
For melody seems hid in every flower,
That blossoms near thy home. These harebells all
Seem bowing with the beautiful in song ;
And gaping cuckoo-flower, with spotted leaves,
Seems blushing of the singing it has heard.
How curious is the nest ; no other bird
Uses such loose materials, or weaves
Its dwelling in such spots : dead oaken leaves
Are placed without, and velvet moss within,
And little scraps of grass, and, scant and spare,
What scarcely seem materials, down and hair ;
For from men’s haunts she nothing seems to win.
Yet Nature is the builder, and contrives
Homes for her children’s comfort, even here ;
Where Solitude’s disciples spend their lives
Unseen, save when a wanderer passes near
That loves such pleasant places. Deep adown,
The nest is made a hermit’s mossy cell.
Snug lie her curious eggs in number five,
Of deadened green, or rather olive brown ;
And the old prickly thorn-bush guards them well.
So here we’ll leave them, still unknown to wrong,
As the old woodland’s legacy of song.




And Jovellanos!  And finishing things! Look how many themes I´m shoe-horning in!  I spent this morning putting together this little homage to Jovellanos, Age of Enlightenment native son of Gijón, whose two portraits by Goya you can see here.  I´ve had all the elements for years, I kid you not, but had to take a break from writing my book “1001 habits of unsuccessful people” this morning to actually put it together. To the left is a contemporary (with him) picture of where I´ve just been to bathe this morning – and behind is a small seascape of this very beach which I finished in my painting class last week.

I love sitting and cutting up paper and glueing things together, tongue sticking out of the corner of my mouth.  It helped ground me, in these emotional times of two horrendous election results (for a Brit in Spain) within 3 days of each other. I´ll let Jovellanos have the last word: (instant translation – mine, not google)

“The light of the Enlightenment doesn´t move as rapidly as that of the sun; but once its rays have touched some hemisphere, it spreads, although slowly, until it fills the most distant horizons; and, either I don´t know my nation well, or this phenomenon is appearing in it.”

The name of the Rose

A dear friend from my reading group in the library, in La Calzada, Gijón (as Greenock to Edinburgh, so La Calzada to Oviedo) encouraged me to post this. So here it is.  With apologies for an unoriginal title.

The name of the Rose
Two qualities which poets fail to remark
in writing of the rose
are her close kinship to the briar
-as tough as old roots –
and her liking
for a bed
of manure.

El nombre de la Rosa
Dos cualidades
que los poetas
pasan por alto
al escribir sobre la rose
son su vinculo estrecho con la zarza,
fuerte como raizes viejas,
y el gusto
por un lecho
de cuchu.

a musical advent calendar

Light the way, Asturias by Toli Morilla

There´s a stereotype about English punctuality here in Spain, with which I don´t conform. So I´m starting my musical Advent calendar on the 7th of December, and intend to share with you each day a convincing musical argument for why Gijón, Asturias, Spain is such a great place to be.

First off, Toli Morilla´s “Alluma´l to Camin” – I need a little help with the translation before I risk it here – one of his most deeply-felt songs about this beautiful land and the struggle of its people to survive.

Toli is one of the most influential singer-songwriters and interpreters of contemporary Asturian music.  He sings in the Asturian language and Spanish, and has Bob Dylan´s permission to sing translations in Asturian, as you will hear later.

Enjoy the Advent Calendar!