Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Post #249

Tomorrow this blog is a whole year old, and I’m still not quite sure why I bother. But anyhoo…

Didn’t quite fit into the bus to Granada, so arrived feeling sore and a bit cranky. We dumped bags and headed to the cathedral. In the adjoining Capilla Real we got to see the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella, who were so happy about winning the town from the Moors in 1492 that they stumped up the cash for Columbus to get lost.

A narrow staircase let you peak at the metal coffins of the dead king and queen. I was reminded of Nimbos telling me about King James, similarly sealed in a lead box. The airtight seal meant he didn’t crumble away to dust as is normal with dead folk, and a later investigation of the coffin found he'd dissolved into soup. I will avoid the tasteless gag about Scotch broth.

Two other odd things about this high Catholic chapel. First, behind the altar is a ceiling-high collection of scenes from the Bible, all done in gaudy 3D. There’s Jesus chatting to some woman, and a priest looking suitably devout.

Oh, and there’s Herod handing over the head of St John the Baptist to Salome (whose mum wanted it for reasons not entirely explained in the Good Book). And between them kneels the remainder of John, captured just as he topples forward so we get an eyeful of his hewn and spurting neck.

The Dr reminded me that public executions would have been a regular part of life at the time this thing was commissioned, so the graphic detail wouldn’t have been quite so shocking.

Secondly, the music playing eerily through the chapel was one of the less-obviously sci-fi tunes from the Bladerunner soundtrack. Guess that Vangelis also did the tunes for that 1492 movie, but even so it was a bit odd. Half expected them to follow it up with some sombre Paddy Kingsland. But they didn’t.

Next day, we dared climb all the way up to the Alhambra. This was partly due to a huge underestimation on my part about how steep it would be (oops) and the still becrutched Dr had to hang on to my arm most of the way (double oops). But we did get a good understanding of the place’s defensive position, as well as seeing a nice bit of stream and garden.

It really is a very beautiful place, and we cooed our way round the Nasrid palace. Again, it’s full of small, interlocking spaces arranged round water features and rooms for contemplation. The Arabic written into the intricate plasterwork everywhere suggests the decorators were fully literate, and there are all kinds of theories about the mathematical and astronomical significance of the d├ęcor.

Every now and then there are rather feeble bits of masonry done by later, Christian hands – there’s an especially galling ceiling of Ferdinand and Isabella’s heraldry which just seems vulgar compared to the modest skill all around it. The Dr explained how the Christian conquest included burning all the Moorish books and manuscripts, learning from the classical age that the West was only just beginning to realise the worth of.

The place was a lot more crowded than when I’d been eight years ago, and I marvelled at the inanities from other visitors. They pointed out to each other what were windows and what ceilings, and which of the pools included “goldfish”.

At least our enlightened countrymen have stopped nicking bits – an awful lot of the Alhambra’s finery resides in the British Museum and V&A.

On Monday we headed back to Malaga by cab – a luxury that gave us time to see the cathedral. I grasped enough Spanish to discuss with the cab driver Granada’s programme of roadworks, Brazil’s chances in the world cup and the myriad virtues of Liverpool. At least I think that’s what it was about.

And then home yesterday to the cold and a cat largely unimpressed to see us, plus all kinds of work things to be done. Did a bit of them, then had wine and Saturday’s Dr Who care of Nimbos. Dreamt of faceless people in cages.

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