Long Christmas Title Created using Figma

Find the perfect gift at our Christmas shop now
UK orders before 15th December, overseas before 4th December

Right Trees Created using Figma

Under the Black Poplars

Saturday, 16 August 2014

I'm sitting in the shade under the black poplars, Los Alamos as they are known in Castellano. There will doubtless be a hundred local names for a hundred different localities, when referring to these tall and sheltering trees. Say Los Alamos to a Baby Boomer and they are likely to think of mushroom clouds and 'Duck and Cover'. I think about these things: perhaps I shouldn't. How close were we over those 50 or so years of La Guerra Fria? Was Cuba as close as all that? It turns out the ICBMs weren't quite as good as Intelligence said. I should know, I was 'in intelligence.' I did a boring job and I'm not sure how well I did it now, with hindsight.

These black poplars are on a campsite in rural spain. In a Parque Natural: I might see wild boar when I walk the dogs tomorrow morning. Sometimes, it's hard to imagine getting here. Berlin, Booze and Barfly antics: living in a Bukowski novel before I'd ever heard of him. Ten years of that and then it was Cyprus, the Middle East and just about anywhere you'd care to name. A travel writer without a pen or the slightest clue. The hardest thing to believe is that I'm still alive. I've pinned money on a Greek bride's wedding dress, without knowing a soul in the restaurant. I've seen the sunrise in more countries than I can remember the name of.

I remember a friend buying a painting in a gallery under the Karlovy Bridge in Prague. We drank complimentary wines in six or so before he succumbed. Maybe he still has the painting.

Some things I don't remember: people tell me about them and – secretly – I imagine that they happened to someone else. It feels like it sometimes.

It's 5.15 local time. The camp-site is quiet-ish. Spanish people do nothing quietly. Or – if you prefer – Spanish people do nothing noisily. Think about it. In a while, I'm going walk down to the bar and order some obscure part of the pig to take away and enjoy it with a bottle of wine.

I don't really know how I got here, but I'm glad I did.

Get updates via email

Join 233 other awesome people who subscribe to new posts on this blog.

Comments

Jack O'Donnell
Jack O'Donnell says:

sweet.

August 18, 2014

Ross Burton
Ross Burton says:

You lucky bugger.

I'm just back from a holiday in Boston and visited the JFK library there. They have a fascinating exhibition of unreleased secret tapes of the meetings of JFK's war cabinet throughout the Cuba crisis. He recorded the meetings secretly, nobody knows why. They show that we came very, very close. If the Pres had been George Bush (particularly GB 2) I think he might well have given in to his military advisors and we might be a ball of grey ash with only the cockroaches alive!

August 18, 2014

Ewan Lawrie
Ewan Lawrie says:

Thanks, Jack.
Well, Ross maybe he secretly recorded them because that's what US Presidents do - secretly record things. At least nobody caught him at it when he was alive. I'm in agreement with you, we might well have all gone up in a mushroom cloud of smoke if GW had had the football.

August 19, 2014

Join in the conversation

Sign in to comment
Published
Publication date: January 2017
111% funded
260 backers