Submissions from the March 2021 challenge to tell the story of the photograph. I hope you enjoy them. If possible it would be useful if you could read the submissions, provide constructive feedback to the author and make any general comments over on our Facebook page or if you comment below, please tag the author and title.
Terri Mitchell – The Isle of Entrellusa
Looking down on that little bay as I walked the coastal path I would always gaze at its marvellous turquoise waters. It drew me for years. I just had to swim there. Those clear turquoise waters were too enticing.
The small bay, now a tranquil spot, tucked away in the abandoned holiday village of Perlora, had a past long forgotten but forever linked to the whaling history of the nearby fishing village of Candas and later the busy holidaymakers of the Franco era.
As far back as 1232 Candas was probably one of the most important whaling ports along the Cantabrian coast. The Isle of Entrellusa (that tranquil bay) is where they brought their catch ashore to be able to work on the carcass.
Those clear turquoise waters would have been very different then, muddied blood red by the awful deed being performed there. Death of majestic creatures bringing life to hundreds of fishing families.
In the church of San Felix in Candas is an image of Christ rising out of the stormy waters and saving some local whalers hunting off the coast of Ireland.
The Whalers off the coast of Ireland had a vision of Christ Resurrected and from the stormy waters rose a crucifix. They brought this back to Candas and it was housed in the San Felix church.
The village celebrates “El Cristo” every September and the Image of that legend has become one of the most visited religious artifacts second only to The Virgin of Covadonga.
Legend has it that the original Crucifix brought home from those stormy waters off the coast of Ireland disappeared in 1936, coinciding with the start of the Civil War. The church was ransacked, the artefact was dragged through the streets of Candas and finally burnt in what is now the Football ground. Legend has it that the officer that ordered said act died very close by a few days later.
The whaling trade in Candas later made the village into the capital of the fish canning industry at the end of the 19th century.
Swimming there this summer I mourned for the souls of those poor beasts. If you walk by that whaling bay nowadays you would have no idea of it’s morbid past but you would most certainly be tempted to swim in the clear, turquoise waters there by the Isle of Entrellusa.
As a bonus, here is Terri’s ABC story which also fits the brief of the photographic prompt. You will recall the challenge on Facebook was to write a piece with each subsequent sentence starting with the next letter of the alphabet. Well done Terri.
Terri Mitchell – Gente Rica – Gente Boba
A very long time ago in a secret valley, Neolithic tribes decided to set up their settlement. Bit by bit they made the top of the hillock their home. Carving a space of peaceful village life out for themselves. Day by day they hunted, foraged, and fought off other tribes, quarrying huge stones from the side of the hill, with fire, to use as burial chambers for their elders.
Everything changed when the Romans invaded. From coast to coast the Roman army found all these idyllic, well placed sites and took hold, enslaving the people there.
Great advances were made by the Romans in many areas of life but also enormous damage was done to the other cultures they conquered.
How do we judge the right of one culture to destroy another even if they brought advances with them? If that were possible to say I think many arguments would be answered. Just imagine the carnage caused in that small village. Keepers of the ancient stones, burial ground of the elders. Lost, all lost! Most of the people enslaved. Neolithic burial ground lost to the knowledge of all.
Oviedo University got wind of this site in the early 1980’s, thousands of years later and sent a group of archaeologists to uncover those stones.
People in the valley had over the years talked about treasures buried in the hillside. Quickly word spread of Roman gold coins. Rumours turned gossip and gossip into action. Soon villagers were digging around trying to find that treasure, those gold coins. They found nothing! Until the archaeologists started their dig many years later.
Very true, there was treasure, however, not the much-coveted gold coins. What they found were ancient burial stones – Dolmens. Excavations revealed this most wonderful burial site. You never know where gossip and rumours and cultural history can lead.
Zealous villagers expected treasure and treasure was found!
Monte Areo, Neolithic burial site and the local folklore behind it. This little verse has been passed down by the neighbours and goes ‘ Monte Aroba, Monte Aroba, Monte rica, gente boba’.
Cal Howman – Fish on the menu!
“Well, I think we can all agree that was a lovely morning on the beach front, we’ve all had a lovely time, but that fresh sea air has made me feel very hungry. Look there in the water! Now, they are fine fish there Alfonso. Look! Look at that one Ana, that one there is a particularly fine fish. Maria, Naomi, Yolanda, look at that one, a particularly fine fish, don’t you agree ladies? That fish could make a lot of people very happy. I would cook it in the oven with clams, beans and some great seasoning. Served piping hot with fresh crusty bread it would be delicious. All washed down with a chilled, Rueda or Alberino wine or perhaps an Asturian cider. What do you think Ana? I can taste it now my mouth is watering.”
“Well, wouldn’t that be just the loveliest thing Luis. You’ve certainly set our taste buds buzzing. If only your particularly fine fish was a hake! Sadly, for you Luis and for the rest of us, it’s just a large grey mullet that if caught and cooked would taste like mud. Why do you think there are so many of them in the estuary here? It’s because they don’t taste good. Your idea about eating grey mullet isn’t a good one Luis, but your idea about eating is an excellent one. We should all head back over the bridge towards the town and choose somewhere with a good ‘menu del dia’ to have our lunch.”
“That sounds like a plan Ana, that sounds like a good plan. Alfonso, ladies, forward march. We need a restaurant with fish on the menu!”
“Luis, didn’t you hear me calling you? I want you to come down to the kitchen to see what I’ve bought from the fish market on my first solo foray. I want to discuss how we’ll cook it. You know how expensive fresh fish is and how inexperienced I feel compared to the locals. It felt like my first day at school when it came to my turn to buy. Now I have to think about preparation and cooking too. Having done my stressed out best at the market and climbed back up the hill from the town, you make me climb three flights of stairs to find out what’s intriguing you up here. Or should that be what’s making you deaf up here?”
“I’m sorry Ana, I really am. I’ve been out on the little balcony at the front of the house trying out my new binoculars. I’m really pleased with them, the quality of the optics is excellent, honestly, Ana I’m so, so pleased. You know what this means don’t you? You can have my old bins, it’s a win, win, situation Ana!”
“Luis, I’m delighted at the thought of having your old binoculars, but can we go down stairs to the kitchen and talk fish, fresh fish?”
“I’ve been scanning the marina and beyond to the sea Ana, to get used to the feel and weight of these new bins. Just now though I’ve zoomed in on the faces of a group of tourists hanging over the rails of the far side of the marina and looking back at the town. The detail in their faces is amazing, their gesticulations, lots of pointing and laughing going on they appear to be having a great time. They’ve been very interested in something in the water just now. Fish perhaps, I couldn’t say from this distance, even with my brilliant new bins”.
“As I said Luis, I’m delighted for you. It’s great that you’re happy with your new binoculars, but can we please go down stairs and talk fish?”
“Wow, that’s a fine fish Ana, you’ve done a great job shopping at the market. I think we should cook it in the oven with clams, beans and some great seasoning. Served piping hot with fresh crusty bread it will be delicious. We should make sure we have a Rueda or Alberino wine chilling in the fridge to go with it, or maybe an Asturian cider. You should be proud of yourself Ana. You bought a great piece of fish. I can taste it now my mouth is watering. We’ll prepare it together. Come on let’s get this kitchen rocking, we have fish on the menu!”
Ian Hicken – Soviet Tajikistan 1991
It was hot, 40 degrees of dry, relentless heat. The hall was slightly cooler than outside but even with all the windows open or broken, holes in the ceiling and doors ajar, it was stifling. The forty or so participants listened attentively whilst wafting their necks and faces with the handouts we had distributed at the end of the previous workshop. The interpreters, Gula and Safar were feeling the strain of a long day and Jean and I were more than ready for a cool drink and a restful half-hour in the shade of the nearby trees.
The martins flew with speed and pinpoint accuracy in and out of the broken windows, navigating the high vaulted ceiling which they scanned for likely nesting sites. As I began to draw the workshop to a close Dr K crashed into the hall and halted proceedings. After a three-minute rant at Gula, we were directed towards the door with an apology from her and told that an explanation would be given on the way…the way to where we were yet to know.
I was working on secondment for the World Health Organisation and had reached day 6 of a two-week tour of the USSR with my colleague Jean Faugier. Our brief was to teach nurses and health officials about HIV, AIDS and Drug misuse; a difficult task given that most hospitals did not have clean needles, syringes or even the basics such as paper to document patient’s records. We were now in Dushanbe in Tajikistan and working hard in the main hall of a run-down ex holiday camp and TB retreat forty minutes drive from the hotel.
Dr K was chaotic and domineering in his approach to ‘his’ health officials and if he spoke, they obeyed. It seemed we were also expected to comply with his managerial style.
We set off in a minibus. Jean, Gula, Safa, Dr K, a couple of unknown men and I leaving our poor health officials two minutes away from a concise and helpful summary of the workshop and its outcomes. Given the heat, they were probably relieved to have finished slightly earlier than planned.
Gula explained that Dr K had important friends in a nearby village and that today was the first day of a three-day celebration of his friend’s son’s journey to manhood. His friend’s son was due to be circumcised and a feast was planned. Most of the villagers would be there to participate in the festivities.
Irritated by being taken out of the workshop minutes from the end, I was slightly appeased by the thought of experiencing real Tajik culture, that was until I was told that Dr K had requested that I give a speech at the celebration and that as a visiting ‘official’, it would be a great honour for the family if I would oblige.
The remainder of the journey was a blur. Sudden panic resulted in a complete thought block apart from an overpowering single track, recurring internal commentary and imagery about severed foreskin and diplomatic incidents. We were shown into the courtyard of a typical whitewashed village house with buildings on three sides and trees providing much-needed shade on the patio. The womenfolk and children were gathered together in a downstairs room, mostly sat on the floor or stood, rocking and nursing young babies. I half expected Dr K to direct Jean and Gula into the women’s space but thankfully he didn’t, perhaps he knew Jean better than I thought he did.
We were ushered past the brightly dressed women folk and taken to a large room on the first floor where the menfolk were gathered around a sumptuous feast laid out on elaborate cloths on the floor. Cushions and rugs decorated the sparse brightly coloured room, accentuated by the most unlikely pair of Laura Ashley style curtains that shaded us from the sun and heat.
The meal was very meat orientated with various cuts and dishes I was unable to recognise. Being a life-long vegetarian, I tinkered with the few nuts, bread and fruits that were available and managed to fend off, politely, constant offers of meat and such. Alcohol flowed freely, rough and harsh on the throat, I surprised myself with my ability to make a small glass full last an exorbitant amount of time. I was still unsure what my role in these proceedings would be so a clear head was needed.
The smell of wood fires drifted through gaps in the curtains, rising from the dome-shaped bread ovens in the yard where a team of younger men pounded and shaped flatbreads ready for baking on the inside of the roof of the oven. Unfamiliar instruments played rhythmic tunes as young girls danced with their arms held high. Laughter and chatter filled the air, Gula and Safar in overdrive translating many questions and answers about our lives and the lives of our hosts.
My big moment arrived. Quite unexpectedly, Dr K clapped his hands together to bring silence to the feast. Life outside our room continued, and I was invited to make my speech. Only having had an hour or so to think about what I might say, I decided early on not to attempt to memorise anything but to be spontaneous and of the moment. The need for translation helped as it gave me time to think about my words and ensure that I avoided social and cultural cock-ups. I faced my host and wished him, his family and his son many things to do with prosperity, health, good fortune, loyal and hard-working children, bountiful harvests and gratitude for his generous hospitality. I concluded with how I would treasure this day and take happy memories of Tajikistan home with me to England and how one day I would like to return.
A rapturous round of raised and clinking glasses, cheers of agreements, clapping and nodding heads confirmed that what I had said had been up to standard. With a sigh of relief, I proposed a toast, downed my drink, burned my throat and relaxed into the celebrations that were to continue for many hours to come. Thankfully, the circumcision had taken place earlier on in the day. Regrettably, later in the day, I was asked to lead the dancing as we celebrated well into the evening, dancing was never my strong point but faced with 40 or 50 locals clapping and beckoning me, I had little choice but to drop my guard, raise my hands in the air and join in…
Jean Faugier – The vet’s visit
It was so good of Eric to make a house call on Sunday. We knew how hard he worked at this time of year : in this very rural part of South-West France, March is when ewes produce lambs in the hundreds, and although the cows here seem to give birth all year round, Spring remains the time when most of their calves are born. Similarly, new life is also produced by the local donkeys known as the Pyrenean lawn-mowers. Poor Eric rarely gets a Sunday free from pulling some young animal reluctantly into the world . So his arrival at the house was much appreciated.
I have brought my assistant with me, he joked, I hope you don’t mind. His wife Martine laughed at this introduction, although that either of them needed one : both of them had been good friends of ours for more than a decade and they knew and loved Jack, our Border Collie of the past fourteen years. Jack could not now perform his usual greeting to visitors, welcoming them with a short low bark before he would present himself for petting. Just recently, he was struggling to get through his day with much enthusiasm, and today he could not lie down or sit and was having difficulties with his breathing.
Eric had often been walking in the mountains with us and Jack. Like everyone who knew Jack, he would marvel at how he walked at least ten times further than any of us, his instinctive hatred of birds of prey launching him off up the steepest mountains in pursuit. I am sure he knew that he would never ever catch one, but he always seemed quite content just to see them off. We all knew by now that those days were over but hoped Eric could once more work his magic as he had a few months earlier when Jack was starting on his decline. Recently, walking a few hundred metres was almost proving too much for our formerly energetic furry friend.
Eric crouched on the mat next to Jack listening to his heart, feeling his back and legs and we waited for him to come up with the prescription which we knew would only put off the inevitable loss we all dreaded. He is getting near the end, Eric said, but maybe there is just one thing to try. He got the tablets out of his van and instructed us in their use but made it clear this would only be a temporary solution; even if it worked, it would just make him more comfortable. He and Martine accepted a cup of coffee, we chatted about the world, the pandemic, the need for a holiday and they left making us promise to call later if things did not improve. We protested loudly : surely things would wait till tomorrow, it was his day off.
But that proved a vain hope. At nine in the evening, we gave up the fight : we knew we had to do for our companion of fourteen years what human beings are not allowed to do for each other, at least in most cases. Our granddaughter Charlotte, who is a few months younger than Jack, was roused to say a tearful goodbye. She had never known a world without him and in fact her first word as a baby was ‘Jack‘ and one of our best memories of that time had her sitting in her highchair with Jack positioned below in order to catch what she dropped.
We met Eric at the clinic where we carried Jack in. Eric examined him and assured us that we were doing the right thing : Jack’s condition had worsened significantly since he had seen him earlier and could not be left in that distressed state, with a failing heart and unable to sit or lie. But it must be your decision, said Eric, Jack cannot make it for himself.
We stroked his head and made sure he could always see us as Eric gave him first a shot to make him sleep. We were then alone for a time with Jack who was at last resting, his breathing was now calmed and it was almost a pleasure to see him finally lying down and at peace. It was possible to picture him now really comfortable like his old self lying in front of the fire on his favorite mat. Our last kiss on his head seemed like a privilege in these kiss-free times as we spent a few more minutes comforting him until Eric came in with the final shot in his hand. A few moments for the contents of the syringe to be emptied and Jack was gone. And we all have now is a huge Jack-shaped hole in our lives. RIP Jack.
Manfred Steinig – Your guess is as good as mine
I probably stopped there a couple of times or more on my way to the beach. It’s a beautiful view across the River Sella to the ‘Paseo de la princesa Leticia’ , Ribadesella’s elegant town promenade. The princess is now Queen Leticia and her husband, the former Prince of Asturias, is Felipe VI.
Taking a close look at the Paseo de la Princesa quay, one can see three fishing boats. Three of the many – I was told more than fifty – that used to moor to unload their catch. Depending on the tide,
the boats float almost at eye level, so that you can look at leisure at the crates full of fish and seafood. At low tide, however, you have to stoop and look down about ten feet.
The folks of the photo are standing on the opposite side, next to the marina, at low tide, looking down at … Well, are there any clues? I’m quite sure they are a group of ‘jubilados’ (pensioners) on an outing to ‘la villa’ as Ribadesella is called by the locals. It’s been more than a year that they have not been coming – courtesy of the virus – but they used to be a staple of the town’s scenery. They were bussed from landlocked provincial towns to the seaside for sightseeing, lunch, the beach and a dip in the sea, all of it at rock bottom price. Of course, they put on their Sunday attire not wanting to pass for peasants.
Our protagonists are on their way to Santa Marina Beach, only a few hundred yards away. Something has caught their attention. There is a gap between the yacht and the quay. Has someone slipped and fallen over board or are some fish feeding on the leftovers of the skipper’s meal?
I’m sure the day-trippers will remember this incident and tell those who couldn’t make it to ‘la villa’ that Ribadesella is well worth a visit.