The Old Elm Tree

Antonio Machado (1875-1939) is undoubtedly one of Spain’s greatest poets. Not as famous as his younger, more flamboyant contemporary Federico García Lorca, his work owes less to the startling, often violent, imagery associated with Lorca and more to a calm contemplation of nature that goes back, via Wordsworth, to Virgil, Theocritus. Etc, etc. A crude…

Inside Story

Memories of 1980s Oxford, for the second time this month. In the same week in which I received an invitation to the Osma Centenary Symposium, Andrew informed me that he'd turned up a cassette tape from 1982 while looking (inevitably) for something else. He digitised it and emailed the result to Bernard and me. The…

Osma Centenary Symposium

Symposium, amongst other things, can mean "a one-day conference". Who knew? (Not Plato for sure. And neither did I.) Last week I was invited to a symposium at Oxford. A year ago I blogged about my trip to Madrid at Easter 1980 when I was 25 years old. This memorable experience was made possible by…

The Good Old Days

I was 19 in 1974. The year began inauspiciously with the Three Day Week, power cuts, a miners’ strike and a General Election. It was a matter of debate whether Ted Heath’s government was really in power or just pretending. I can’t say it bothered me much, apart from when the pubs were shut. The…

Arriving in León

Spain in 1975 was very different from England, and quite different from what it has become today. I felt it, as much as saw it, as soon as I got off the plane. Of course it was hot and dusty. Policemen carried machine-guns, and there seemed to be a lot of them about. There were…

Don Javier Marías Franco

In 1979, at the start of my second post-graduate year in Oxford, I was awarded the prestigious and lucrative Osma Studentship. I was required to spend at least six weeks in Madrid. Not that I was complaining. I immediately spent a good chunk of it on a Shergold double-neck guitar (as anyone would), leaving more…

Messages from the Other Side

I hadn't seen Alison for quite a while but we had stayed in touch over the years. In was 1982 and she was back from Tokyo or Beirut or Damascus, or wherever. For someone who had to resit her A levels, she was heading for a distinguished academic career, which was more than I was.…

Lost thesis

Complete works of Pardo Bazán

A couple of months ago I was introduced to Nick, the newly elected Chair of the Camberwell Society, who teaches Modern Languages at a local public school. Over a pint he mentioned that he had studied Spanish at Exeter University; we talked about the late professor, Maurice Hemingway, who had examined my M. Litt. so…