Category Archives: Video

My Life with Colombian Drug Lords

This is the best title sequence ever (see it through) – Mexican-Colombian Emmy-winning novela meets Tarantino, the Coen brothers and a mariachi band – and it’s the theme tune to life in somewheresville, as El Señor de los Cielos is on every single night. (Unfortunately, since sitting on the remote, we can’t turn the subtitles off.)

To sum up the week so far: el Señor, Aurelio Casillas, is about to gun down doe-eyed, terrier-keen journalist Eugenia, off-on-off girlfriend of his nemesis Marco Mejia head of the anti-narcotics squad in Mexico City. Mejia’s only just heard about it because he was in bed with a troubled Colombian undercover cop, and now dammit he can’t get a signal on his phone. Aurelio’s brother is getting roughed up by a man called scissors, for the things he does with scissors, at a coke lab run by guerrillas deep in the Colombian jungle. Back at the ranch his saucy wife, Matilda, is looking high and low for her birth control pills having just had sex with Aurelio’s teenage son who, since assassinating his best friend, a celebrity singer and record producer who came to stay with a ditsy singer in tow who turned out to be the troubled undercover cop, is pushy, drunk and mean. In another wing, his mother, Aurelio’s wife is packing or unpacking her bags, pacing sadly. She reckons that for all his floppity hair, money and confidence, Aurelio is a bad egg and he might have something to do with the sudden death of her father, drug lord Don Cleto, yesterday (he did). She thinks she might be happier with her husband’s loyal (up to a point) right-hand man who really, really loves her but really mustn’t show it – not if he doesn’t want Scissors visiting him late at night. Back in Mexico City, Aurelio’s No.1 mistress, Monica, was thinking about stabbing him with a really big knife when he stayed over last night in revenge for the death of her entire family (the Villalobos cartel) but couldn’t quite. She has a man servant called Sad and a body in a freezer which is connected somehow with her aborted plan. And to make matters worse, a high-ranking police official suckered down and dirty into Aurelio’s murky cokey world is about to spill the beans. But someone keeps sticking notes in his prison dinners suggesting that unless he keeps his mouth shut, his wife, Doris, is for the chop, and he really loves Doris even though she is rather Lady Macbeth.

Series three of El Señor de los Cielos, an ordinary tale of gun-toting drug trafficking folk, has been on Spanish television (Nova) every single weekday night at 10pm since mid-September for 1.5hrs a night. Recently it has been shaved down to a mere 50 minutes, but the series still makes going out impossible.
The multi-award-winning series is brilliantly-acted gripping drama trash, and, although it would be nice to see friends over Christmas, I don’t want it to end. However it’s based on a true story, and as I worked off and on in Colombia during the 90s when the real events were playing out, I know how it pans out. Let’s just say, never trust plastic surgeons. The good news is that series 1 & 2 are available. Thanks Caracol, thanks Telemundo. Feliz Navidad.


How to Build a Garage. Sort of.

Fernando, Antonio and I design a freestanding garage. Turns out that calculating how much iron to order is a fairly complicated business.



Last year when I moved into the farmhouse the only occupants of the grain loft were house martins and house sparrows. I waited and waited until all their eggs had hatched, and all the hatchlings had flown, and then for a long time to be sure, before reclaiming the space and turning it into somewhere to sleep. I had glass put in the windows and, to prevent birds from flying into it, I made strings of CDs and dangled them from the frame. Twisting and turning in the bright light the CD strings gave the farm the look of a hippy squat and discouraged the birds.
One year on I woke to find birds flying round the room. If it wasn’t for the cats I might even have been tempted to share the space but I closed the window to be kind. Now every morning they do fly-bys, giving the evil eye and shaking a metaphorical fist through the glass at the invader.

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Hee-Haw: Lawnmower Delivery

The house is now submerged in undergrowth or I should say overgrowth, barely visible if not through the window of a light aircraft. While in July I’ll be praying the well doesn’t dry up and dragging a hose over earth turned to rock, I wake these mornings half-expecting the vegetation to have broken through the foundations, to be tumbling in coils from shattered window panes. The track is undetectable. The donkey house, the hen house, and I forget what else was there, are swallowed up  along with wheelbarrows, loungers, shoes, shears, umbrellas, football, rolls of wire fencing. The wild flowers have un-hackable trunks, the poppies are over my head; large animals have tunnelled through the grass. Aggressive shrubs are hoovering the water and nutrients needed by the olives and orange trees.

It doesn’t seem right to measure the farm in acres when most of the growth is vertical. Each acre is 43,560 square feet, and the vegetation on it averages 4 foot high which equates to 174240 cubed feet of problem per acre. I watched Arturo fix an ancient tractor he bought secondhand in Seville. He made it look easy (although it has since broken down and been abandoned mid-field). I don’t have a tractor. I do have a strimmer but it’s not up to this; it was like going to war with a peashooter and the strimmer, a brand new acquisition, has joined a lot of stuff on the unlikely to be fixable pile in the shed. I have a scythe I like using but it is slow and dangerous and, for some irritating reason, fascinating to the cat.

The only solution is to fight nature with nature. Juan, 81, father or father-in-law of every farmer I know except Fernando, has located a small herd of sheep for me. However my hesitance (am I still, after all, not footloose?) and the complicated paperwork and housing preparations having sheep entails means even if a decision was made today they wouldn’t arrive until August when everything was turned to straw.
As an interim solution, Fernando has lent me Canalita and Saltalinda, his belligerent donkeys. They arrived last week with Fernando and Fernando’s cousin Fernando, full of bolshy attitude and have already eaten a guard dog sign, a cat litter tray I’d left out to deter mice from climbing up into the engine of the car, a glove and a young fig tree native to Valencia. Like so many solutions this is packed with its own problems.


Lunchtime Dancing Sevillana Style

Got invited to Ismael’s birthday lunch at the farm. Great food – vegetable stew, asparagus and eggs – cooked over the open fire, marinated meat cooked over flames outside, great wine, great company, and great people. Two of the guests were economists. They worked at the University of Seville investigating public spending but lost their jobs when the financial crisis deepened which, as they say, was ironic.

Rare Sighting

I was standing in a river bothering leafcutter ants when I heard the distant slash of a machete.  I waited quietly, and eventually was rewarded with a glimpse of the lesser spotted Fitz, making his way upstream.  Although this is his natural habitat, sightings of this lone male in the wild are rare nowadays.

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