Tonight, Matthew, I’ll be… Bridget Jones

Knickers. You guessed….red knickers for luck of course, de riguer and a la mode for NYE in Spain, doncha know? Yes, it’s that night again, they roll around with such speed these days, anyone would think we were growing older.


Tempus might Fugit but we’ll be doing the same old thing here, freezing our asses off in the village Plaza, tradition dictates we have a grape for each chime of the midnight bells and a gulp of cheap Cava to wash them down. By the time the last bell tolls we’ll be doing Brando/Corleone impressions and laughing our heads off, whilst simultaneously kissing and wishing everyone a Feliz Ano Nuevo – (actually that translates as a happy new arse and not a year as I don’t have the requisite accent on this silly UK keyboard.)

I will indeed wish for a new arse, slightly less padded and much more svelte as I roll out the same old resolutions, as 5:2 begins again in earnest – only to be a forgotten friend – or fiend – by February. Sure we have our health – what more do we really need?

The more padded version of this derrière will be snugly – slightly too snugly – encased in red knickers for good luck tonight. Although we all know luck is something that’s made and worked on. And I’ll wish tonight for all of you the same – so have a great one, whether it’s cosy by the fire with Jules and his piano, or freezing in your own home town square/pub:

Athbhliain faoi shéan agus faoi
¡Feliz año nuevo!
or Happy New Year!


Young guns, old rock stars, and a movie set in Spain

Straight to Hell – what’s that?

It’s all about a comedy of errors really! A tall tale of hardened punk and rock stars, big name actors, a Hollywood script – and too much time on their hands! Straight to Hell is a farcical Spaghetti Western, set in the heat of the desert – in Almeria, Spain. Not quite Clint Eastwood, but a stellar cast all the same.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly…

The cast is made up of some familiar names in the music industry, who banded together in 1986, to make a movie. The director was Alex Cox, the actor and director best known for his work on the likes of hit movies ‘The Repo Man’ and ‘Sid and Nancy’.

The actors? Joe Strummer – The Clash front-man, Shane MacGowan of The Pogues, Dennis Hopper, Grace Jones, Elvis Costello – not to mention Hollywood A-listers Tim Robbins and John Cusack. A stellar cast indeed…so far, so good.


What was the idea behind the movie?

Like most big ideas in the 80’s, it all started in London. Strummer, The Pogues, Costello and others had just completed a sell-out concert in aid of The Sandinistas of Nicaragua. The concert was such a roaring success, it was decided to do a tour with all the artists in Nicaragua as a show of solidarity. The idea was touted around all of the record companies and bigwigs of the music industry  – but unfortunately none of them were interested.

At this stage, all of the artists that WERE interested, had cleared a month completely free of commitments – and wondered what they could do instead?

A story, and ideas were required. Fresh from the success of Sid and Nancy, the film producer Alex Cox was quickly drafted in, and jetted off to LA to write up a script, and the film Straight to Hell was born. Ideas were bandied about, but Joe Strummer was determined to get his own way. He wanted to make a serious, all guns blazing Western, and there was only one place for that…


Destination: Spain

Strummer was already in love with Spain. Andalucia, and in particular San José in the Cabo de Gata, which had been his holiday destination of choice for many years. He knew both Almería and Granada well, having had a sabbatical in the latter city during the death throes of his band The Clash.

Courtney Love, Eddie Tenpole Tudor and others joined the gang and off they set for sunny Spain.

Island Records decided to have a change of heart on the money front and put up roughly a million pounds to fund the project, and it was decided that filming would take place at locations in the old Wild West sets of Tabernas, using the infamous desert landscapes.


Stars sleeping under stars

Joe Strummer took the role very seriously and in true grit style he decided to sleep out in the desert, wearing his gun holster underneath his jacket, invoking memories of his video for the hit single Love Kills, which was also filmed in Almería.

Strummer might have happily roughed it but the rest of the cast and crew luxuriated in the comfort of the Grand Hotel in Almería city, where the opening scenes were also filmed.


No rest for the wicked

Then it all went wrong. Comfort ended abruptly when shooting over-ran, and the stars found themselves plunged into the middle of a real-life Fiesta. During the 1980’s the city Fería took place right outside the hotel, situated on the main plaza and thoroughfare. After long arduous, and tedious days of filming under the baking hot desert sun, the cast and crew would return to the hotel to find themselves in the middle of an all night party – too much even for hardened rock stars! The Spanish party mentality almost finished them off, and the only ones to actually enjoy the fiesta were John Cusack and Tim Robbins who had already been kicked off set as they wouldn’t have haircuts due to later filming commitments. They stayed on anyway and simply partied.

The Pogues popular song Fiesta immortalises the nightmare felt by the jobbing actors, and the lyrics perfectly sum up the mood of the time.

Grace Jones and Dennis Hopper

It didn’t end well. Despite the fact that big names such as Grace Jones and Dennis Hopper were flown in for cameos, the relative inexperience of the other actors, the rotten script and rushed time scale meant that the film was, well, a flop.

As rock and roll films go, it’s still worth a watch though – but probably best viewed with your tongue firmly in your cheek. Classic Hollywood it’s definitely NOT!

It’s all summed up really, when Cox once said “Well, it did only take three days to write”.

And the retort? “What took you so long?”!!

The legend lives on

And Joe Strummer?. He continued to return regularly to San José with his family and friends for long holidays.  His untimely death at the age of just 50 (too, too young) didn’t stop the legend living on. Strummer’s legacy is still very much alive and well in Almería. Every year in August to commemorate his birthday, the San Joe Strummer Music Festival takes place. There’s a Facebook page dedicated to just that.

Should you find yourself on holiday in Granada city, make time to find the recently inaugurated Joe Strummer Plaza, as well as the more famous sights on your Granada holiday list.

It’s oh so quiet…..

Ssssh….everyone’s asleep.It’s 4 something am, and through the inky blackness of the window Orion is winking back at me. The hills and mountains quiet, perhaps just the odd family of Wild Boar down below my house, foraging and lucky to have escaped the trigger happy Puente-enders.

Just Marco for company here, rolled into a tight ball by my side and snoring lightly. A hand to his head makes him do that little stray-dog flinch – they never lose it. He’s never even been told off in 8 years of gracing us with his presence, but still has that reproachful look.

Why am I awake? It might be that bottle of white I greedily guzzled. It might be the fire crackling and hissing outside the bedroom – meaning Stan is also awake on the sofa, Kindle in hand, Jeremy Kyle idly wondering who might be the father of a choice of 27,ooo…ah throw a coin in the air and forget the Lie Detector. Why is he so addicted to that dross? It depresses me no end.

What else? Thoughts of The Boy, thousands of miles away. Did he go out? Did he remember his insulin, something to eat? Maybe it’s The Girl, growing up too fast, the novio just a little too close for (my) comfort these days. I’m not so old, I know an avaricious or lavacious look a mile off.  Yeah, I know, I’ll have to shut up and roll with it.

But I’m still wide awake. My father, who always sits on my shoulder this time of year, perhaps it’s him. Blame the Da. The last couple of days I can smell and taste his 6am fried brown soda bread, and strongly stewed tea, placed on the old long knocked-out tiled hearth of home. “There you are, Car – fire’s lit.” A dollop of congealed Chef sauce, a heavy hand with the salt. Hey, maybe even a rasher. Thanks Da for the high blood pressure, it was worth it.

I don’t know…it could be my throat. Not a lurgy – but a potato 🙂 I choked – not to be dramatic, but almost to death – on Sunday when one lodged in my throat. I managed to hurl it up. Sorry it that’s put you off lunch. When I came back from the bathroom, eyes red, clutching my neck, Stan was still chewing, Isobel still texting. Imagine, all the disasters I have avoided in life by a hair’s breadth and I choke to death on a bloody roast spud. Imagine the epitaph…She Went Back to Her Roots.

Enough of this, I may as well get up. There’ll be a girl for breakfast and there’s soda bread to make. 🙂