Rice, Oranges and Whale Bones

Rice, Oranges and Whale Bones

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Old bones lie, it would seem, washed ashore by the sea. A graveyard, carcasses picked clean and now bleached by the sun. Smooth and sharp they criss-cross into infinity. A whale struggles and breaks free jumping into the air from the little water  which remains, crystal clear, dangerously blue. Perhaps the fish found themselves stuck here that time when the river overflowed. Many died, so channels were diverted. Trees now grow, people run and children play on a giant man, where water once gushed and cooled the city’s banks. Yes, this is how these creatures came to be here, I am sure.

The sea is close, sometimes I think they can smell it. But the plains between the graveyard and the water are dry. There is no return for these poor creatures now. Passed the port and out of the city, we travel along the sea front.

Behind us is the earth, where the farmers toil and the trees grow ripe with fruit.

All I see now is water, on both sides. The lake to the right and the sea to the left. Little boats and reeds. A girl wears a traditional costume. Further on we go. Here there are fields, but they are not dry, not these ones. These ones are are flooded. Must we walk on water? Little white triangles appear on the horizon. It feels like I have traveled to the end of Valencia, to the end of the world. Passed the Cathedral and the ancient fish, the fields and even over the sea itself.

We have found it, and what humble beginnings for such a source of fame. When the men cooked in the open air of their orchards near lake Albufera, could they of known? That it would be you, la Paella, you, who would end up conquering the world?

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Hemingway’s Cuba- The Old Man and the Sea

Hemingway’s Cuba- The Old Man and the Sea

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At the little fishing village, I see no boats and I see no fishing. They say it used to be a hub, a hive of activity but now the waters are mostly fished out. Cojimar, an abandoned lover, wild with loss and stricken with grief. A bronze bust is erect, was erected and still stands, heavily upon white talc pillars.  One harsh storm and it might all get swept out to sea. The wooden shacks rustle and our hair blows wildly in the wind. A lone fort grows out of the sea. Writing, at its best, is a lonely life and if a man is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

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Long were the days when the old leathery man captained and the white haired man with blue eyes walked up the hill and ate his catch in a room filled with cigar smoke and laughter. The sea doesn’t remember, it is cold.’I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him. I am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars.’ But I am not cold. I will indulge Cojimar and I will see the flowers that blossom in the rocky gardens and the trees which grow in the yards of the old grand buildings and I will see him. I will see the Old Man and the Sea.

Hemingway’s Cuba, Cuba’s Hemingway

 A great way to visit the little town of Cojimar is to go to tourist office at the Hotel Seville. They will organize a private taxi for you from the Hotel and will drop you off at Cojimar. There the taxi will wait for you whilst you wander around. We did this on our first morning in Havana. It is a good way to get a sense of Havana’s location and to get to see the sea and surrounding towns. Cojimar is very small and its influence and literary significance should be borne in mind – it is not itself particularly impressive.  On our journey back the taxi took us to a great lookout point, the Parque Morro y Cabana (an extra 2cuc), one of Cuba’s most important historical sites- a complex made up of forts and battlements across the Harbor Channel. The whole trip cost around 25 cuc. However, if you only have only a short time in Havana, I would not recommend that you do this trip.

The Old Man and the Sea is a novel written by the American author Ernest Hemingway in 1951 and published in 1952. The novel is based on the fishing village of Cojimar and it is said that the captain of Hemingway’s own boat Pillar, was the inspiration behind his main protagonist. This was the last major work of fiction to be produced by Hemingway and published in his lifetime. It was awarded the Pullitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and was cited by the Nobel Committee as contributing to the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Hemingway in 1954.