Today is pretty special here.  Well, actually I think everyday is pretty special here, but today is even ‘special-er’ if that is a word.  Today is the summer solstice.  Yes, the day that many of us long for…it is the longest day of the year.  I could now crank out several paragraphs about the shifting tilt of the Earth on its axis, but that would bore even me.  For people who tend to love sunlight, the longest day gives us just what we are after, and in the case of my island, this means that from 0625 to 2116 in the evening, we all will be basking in the warmth of the sun.

Now in all fairness, we don’t quite celebrate the day like they do in some other places.  The morning news channels all reported that the number of people who had flocked to Stonehenge had never been higher.  Stonehenge, located in southern England, is a very special place to see.  The rings of stones date back four or five-thousand years and for many, represent “the” place to be on the summer Solstice.  Sort of a blending of an all-night party and a semi-religious ceremony, this year an estimated 35,000 pseudo-Druids, New Age aficionados and those who probably had nothing else to do at the break of dawn except to watch the sun peek over the Salisbury Plain.

I can remember whilst living in London, we drove out to see Stonehenge one summer day and it was pretty spectacular.  I have always enjoyed being in seriously old stone buildings (okay, so Stonehenge isn’t actually a building, but stick with me for a few more sentences).  What I have always tried to do is press my palm up against one of the stone walls.  It is almost as if you can ‘feel’ the history of the building and ‘hear’ some of the stories that, if it could talk, have taken place within its walls.  I really wanted to do this at Stonehenge, but when we were there, the entire site had barriers that had been constructed around it.  There were signs that alluded to the fact that the site was being restored, but I think that there must be a lot of people who just wanted to touch it. 

I didn’t celebrate a Stonehenge-type Solstice – my wardrobe contains nothing that even looks like it has been made out of horse-hair, nor did I clink any little cymbals or do an serious chanting.  Having said that, at one point during the day, I was considering humming along with Tina Turner’s voice as she belted out ‘boom-shucka-lucka-lucka, boom-shucka-lucka-lucka, dah dah dah, dah dah day, dah dah day, hey-hey-hey’ on my iTunes. (Would that have counted as chanting?  Not sure)  What I did was do what I normally do on non-work days…I went outside and enjoyed the day.

The Solstice here was pretty great.  Not too hot (about 30c) lots of sun, gentle sea breeze, and about 40 boats at anchor in front of Sol y Mar.  I managed to sit out and relax a bit with a brilliant book (Jorge Bucay’s ‘Cuentos para Pensar’) as well as reflect on the other night.  I had just returned from a client visit and went to a little dinner party at a friend’s house.  Antonio, one of the participants in the recent car rally, had vowed at the end of the rally that he would put together a little dinner for all the rally teams that had survived the two-day event.  Apparently, the term ‘little’ didn’t translate all that well, as he had made (all from scratch) Gazpacho, followed by two paellas that were each about the size of hula-hoop. It was brill to see everyone again, and the food was incredible – someday I really would like to get off my bum and do more proper ‘from scratch’ cooking.  I sort of have taken the first step.

One of the things I miss about not living at La Antigua is not having a proper garden.  So a week ago, I went out and bought some more large macetas, a few bags of proper dirt,  and a melange of seeds to plant.  And because of my diligent efforts, I am now proud to report that I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the two different types of tomato plants, lechuga (lettuce) and two different types of cebollas (onions).  What I find is amazing is that the lechuga is already beginning to come up.  ‘Coming up’ is a relative term when talking about planting vegetables from seeds I suppose.  In my definition, this means that there are some small green bits that have made it up through the soil.  And to be perfectly honest, I am not even sure if what is coming up is the lechuga…I neglected to label with maceta has which seeds.  But that is okay.  Life is full of adventure and surprises…and I will certainly be surprised to find out what I will be able to harvest first. 

Back to the party.  The food was simply fabulous, but what I really enjoyed was talking with friends.  Whilst everyone there did speak English, the vast majority of the guests were Spanish, and they courteously always drop into my native tongue when having a conversation with us ex-pats.  This is nice, but it certainly doesn’t help my Spanish.  I have found that my Spanish is far better when I am speaking to someone who doesn’t speak English.  Because native Spaniards speak, in what sounds to us like rapid-fire, no-stopping-for-breathing, endless streams of words, I find that it doesn’t even permit me time to think in English.  When this happens, my Spanish is far better.  So at the paella extravaganza, I tried to avoid English as much as possible.  I am sure that they all thought that my Spanish is still crap (something I am quite convinced of), but the evening was far more rewarding when I would (you can pick one here…) A) attempt to speak Spanish, B) mess-up my Spanish, C) butcher a beautiful language with poorly conjugated verbs, or D) sound like I really am trying to learn the language of the country that has been nice enough to let me live here.  After all, if you don't try, you don't learn.


a wierd graphic that shows the effect of the tilting axis (I think)


Stonehenge, not your typical DIY project


Solstice worshippers at Stonehenge



Solstice worshippers in Mallorca



Solstice worshipper at Sol y Mar



nice neat rows of lechuga (or tomatoes or maybe weeds)

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copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, James B. Rieley