Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Onwards and westwards

Goodness, today this computer allows me to write here. (The whole internet-thing seems very arbitrary sometimes!)

I've been here over two weeks now, and am beginning to get my head round organising myself. There's a wonderful system of 'casas' - local families providing rooms for passing tourists. Once in the system (and that was a bit of a challenge) it's wonderful - each landlady (for want of a better term) phones for a 'casa' in the next town you're visiting and off you go. I've been made wonderfully welcome, in spite of my rubbish Spanish.

From Camaguey, with its narrow labyrinth of streets - many of which echo with the din of builders, as much of the town is being restored - I headed west, stopping in Sancti Spiritus (often nothing more than a whistle-stop for the tour groups) and then Santa Clara, to pay obligatory homage to Che Guevara.

And so to Trinidad - there are back streets where local people live and work, of course, but the central plaza and its surrounding buildings are given over to tourists. It is lovely - the sun shines through palm trees and glints from the tower of the church, and ponies clop along cobbled streets. Tourist-heaven, and I've no way of knowing what sense local people make of us wandering around peering in their doorways, but it's a great place to rest for a day or two!

And the music Trinidad breathes music. That glorious dialogue between Spanish and African traditions that has given us salsa, and rumba. Music is not cerebral here. It lives in bones and blood and muscles. Footsteps are bongos on the cobbles. Trumpets echo from the walls. It´s gutsy, and passionate ... ah, the music ... I shall be jigging round my kitchen for weeks when I get home!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Greetings from Cuba


Where have I been all this time? Having a great time, of course - but one of Cuba's quirks is her internet access (you could make a cup of tea in the time it takes to load a page) and reluctance to let me into blogger to tell you all about it. So please, bear with me, I'll blog when I can.

I can barely give you a taster of the complexities of Cuba in this post - Havana with her music and contradictions. The lovely old city with its lanes and plazas and restored buildings; within a stone's throw walls are crumbling and roads filled with potholes. There are goodies for tourists, but local shops almost empty. Music thrums from every corner, setting toes tapping - it till take time for me to see how much that is simply for the tourists' benefit.

I headed west from Havana, a long bus trip to Camaguey - arriving at midnight (breaking all my own rules about safe travel) but was taken to a lovely casa and everything looked brighter in the morning. I loved Camaguey, with its winding streets designed to deter pirates (I spent most of my time lost!). And now I'm wending my way westward, with a few days in Sancti Spiritus - not on all the tour group itineraries but a lovely town celebrating 500 years of something with music and dancing in the main plaza. Here was Cuba at her most flamboyant and wonderful!

Next stop - the plan is to go to Santa Clara. But this is Cuba and I'm learning that anything can happen. So it's quite possible that next time I have access to a working internet connection I'll be in Santiago.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Here I go again.

The bags are packed (a wheelie suitcase this time, not a rucksack. I am assured that there won't be many unruly tracks). The tickets are printed and checked. The bank informed I'm going awol. It's almost time to go.

I understand that internet access is expensive and slow in Cuba - I'll drop by here from time to time, of course, to pass or an adventure or two, but my visits are unlikely to prolonged or regular. (I'll not tell you all of them - my daughters have been known to drive by here and there's no need to alarm them). Of course comments will be welcome - I promise to read them but I may not be able to respond.

Nor will I be able to do much on the twitter front - so if anyone feels energised to publicise a post or two, that would be wonderful. And if you don't -  that's fine too. I'll read blogs when I can, but can't promise to keep up with the chatter or even write anything meaningful. I'll do my best to catch up when I get back.

For I'll be ... I don't know where. I have five nights booked in Havana, and then I'll take a bus somewhere and see what happens. All I know is, it will be warm, and wonderful (sorry, probably shouldn't rub that in). I'll travel with notebook in one hand and pen in the other, scribbling stories as I go.

You never know, there might be another book when I get back.

(Meanwhile, I've titivated the website - nothing drastic, just a little play with the colours and boldy bits. If you have some online time to fritter: click here. And if you fancied following the link on the website and 'liking' me on Facebook - I'm told it makes a difference to something-or-other, but I've no idea what!)

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

How was it for you?

So, that's it for another year. The tinsel is tired, the compost overflowing with uneaten sprouts, the balloons popped.

I hope you all enjoyed the festival you needed. If eating, drinking and being merry is your thing - then I hope you are sated. If settling in a corner by the fire in glorious silence, knowing the shops are closed and the phone won't ring, is what floats your boat - then I hope no doorbells rang for you.

Me - I had the best of both worlds. On some days my walls echoes with the laughter of grandchildren (I shouldn't be surprised that people so small can make so much noise); and on others I sat with a book and let the hours swim by.

And so to 2014. The shiver of excitement that comes with a New Year. The days will get longer (promise); the birds will sing again; the snowdrops will bloom and we'll look for catkins.

Some of you will make resolutions - not me. I can't see the point of setting myself up to fail. I can do that easily enough without the excuse of the date. If you're promising yourselves a slimmer, fitter body by the time the clocks go forward - the very best of luck.

For it is a time of year for looking forward - and as you know, I have travels to look forward to. But before I head for the airport I shall think, for a while, about those who cannot - for whatever reason - share my excitement. It can be a painful time of year - for many reasons, and I won't speculate about yours. For those of you weeping into your cocoa, I hope that 2014 takes the shape you need it to. That the lonely will find comfort, that the needy will find succour, and the beleaguered will find peace.

I raise a glass to you all.

ps. I've had a rather wonderful start to the year - I submitted Over the Hill to a competition so long ago I'd almost forgotten, and then this happened: click here! So I might eat cake as I raise my glass to you!