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Old 11th September 2006, 08:35 AM   #1
Ben
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Default Notes from Spain podcast 47 - Chris Stewart interview

What fun! This weekend we headed deep into the Alpujarras, a mountainous region south of Granada, to interview Chris Stewart, author of Driving Over Lemons, A Parrot in the Pepper Tree, and the Almond Blossom Appreciation Society. After a rather fine lunch overlooking his valley farm, we sat down to discuss topics including:

- The history of the Moors in Spain and the Alpujarras
- The Moorish influence on his lifestyle and farming techniques, including Moorish irrigation techniques
- Olive trees and olive farming around Jaen
- The similarities between the Alpujarra and Morocco
- The writing process
- Moroccan immigration in Spain and El Ejido (a town in Andalusia where many Moroccan immigrants end up working in intensive greenhouse farming).
- The African immigration problem facing Spain now, and the treatment of Moroccan immigrants in Andalusia
- … and finally, a great recipe for Gazpacho!

Listen here, and please comment or ask any questions below!
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Old 11th September 2006, 08:50 AM   #2
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I only took 3 photos while we were there, really because we were there as podcasters, rather than photographers. All 3 were of a herd of goats that surrounded us with clattering bells when we arrived in the valley and began the walk towards Chris's farm. Here is one, which may help to give you a further idea of the surroundings (click to enlarge):
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Old 12th September 2006, 11:47 AM   #3
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If you have heard the podcast we would love to know what you thought. So far the only public comments we have got are from a certain 'Cesar' on the blog (see comments below the post), which are not all together positive. One way or another, we would love to know what others think too!
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Old 12th September 2006, 12:06 PM   #4
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An interview between Chris Stewart and César I'd pay to listen to. In between the vitriol César does make some accurate observations, but, far be it for me to offer him a single word of support.

I wonder if you uncovered a problem in the podcast with the 3rd and probably last book in the series. Driving over Lemons was uplifting and I am sure inspired many to make the move to Spain if not explore that region on holiday. Almond Blossom sees Chris Stewart on his soap-box tackling a subject he clearly feels strongly about but offers no practical solutions to solve. I think for the first time I can see why most Spaniards would have no interest in his books. Sorry about that, I do want to be more positive but I can't.

Perhaps somebody could come up with a subject from the podcast that has a less negative tone to it? I'm not convinced that this is the place to tackle Zapatero's immigration cock up.
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Old 12th September 2006, 12:26 PM   #5
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I am aware that more judicious editing would have left a shorter podcast with a lot of interesting information about the Moors in Spain, farming techniques, olives, and writing, which would have been more in tone with the usual NFS archive.

But at the time of editing on Sunday night, I thought, why not leave Africa in, it's an important topic and one that most of us usually forget about. I hope that the earlier part of the podcast, the majority in fact, is not lost to the Africa debate, as there was a lot of good stuff in there as well.
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Old 12th September 2006, 12:41 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marbella View Post
Almond Blossom sees Chris Stewart on his soap-box tackling a subject he clearly feels strongly about but offers no practical solutions to solve.
...which he does admit in the podcast.

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I think for the first time I can see why most Spaniards would have no interest in his books.
The first one, Driving over Lemons, is being published in Spanish for the first time later this week, so we'll soon find out what they think! It's already been translated into 15 other languages, and only now is coming out here.

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Old 12th September 2006, 01:03 PM   #7
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...which he does admit in the podcast.


The first one, Driving over Lemons, is being published in Spanish for the first time later this week, so we'll soon find out what they think! It's already been translated into 15 other languages, and only now is coming out here.
That's good news, I hope it does well. My wife liked that book but didn't the other two.

There is an interview with him in 'Wanderlust Magazine' which I think is quite recent. A good quote:

"How do the Spanish view your books?
They’ve not been published in Spanish, so the jury is out. My local bank manager is one of the few Spaniards I know who has read Driving Over Lemons. He said he thought it had no merit at all, but hoped we might remain friends."
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Old 12th September 2006, 01:05 PM   #8
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Old 12th September 2006, 01:24 PM   #9
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Default Some other questions

I have some other questions:

In the introduction you gave a sense of how remote El Valero is. I'm trying to get my bearings here. The farmhouse sits on top of a hill and you sat having lunch looking out across the valley.

Is the view totally unspoilt? It is impossible where I live in the SE of England to get away from traffic noise or people.

Does the area where he lives have hundreds of those wind turbines?

When you had lunch, what language did you all speak? I take it that the chatter in the background was the lunch guests?

If you met his daughter does she seem more Spanish than English?

Does Chris Stewart speak good Spanish?

Did you go to Orgiva? Is it worth a trip?

Do you think he gets a bit sick of being asked about Genesis?


Chris Stewart (front right!)
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Old 12th September 2006, 01:41 PM   #10
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Quote:
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I have some other questions:

In the introduction you gave a sense of how remote El Valero is. I'm trying to get my bearings here. The farmhouse sits on top of a hill and you sat having lunch looking out across the valley.
On the side of a hill, and yes, we looked out over the valley to an arid mountainside.

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Is the view totally unspoilt? It is impossible where I live in the SE of England to get away from traffic noise or people.
Totally, totally unspoilt. This is real isolation. Which is what makes it so amazing that sometimes 2 to 3 total strangers a week will turn up at his farm to have a look and say hello. How do they find it?!

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Does the area where he lives have hundreds of those wind turbines?
We saw a few on the way to Lanjaron, at the beginning of the Alpujarra, but none near his place.

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Originally Posted by Marbella View Post
When you had lunch, what language did you all speak? I take it that the chatter in the background was the lunch guests?
Yes, it was. We spoke Spanish.

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Originally Posted by Marbella View Post
If you met his daughter does she seem more Spanish than English?
Yup, and she considers herself Spanish.

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Does Chris Stewart speak good Spanish?
Yes, with a fine Andaluz accent.

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Did you go to Orgiva? Is it worth a trip?
Didn't stop, but I would say you go there for the surrounding landscape rather than the town.

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Do you think he gets a bit sick of being asked about Genesis?
Not sure, didn't ask him
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Old 12th September 2006, 02:04 PM   #11
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Thanks Ben. Sounds like paradise compared to here!
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Old 12th September 2006, 02:27 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben View Post
If you have heard the podcast we would love to know what you thought. So far the only public comments we have got are from a certain 'Cesar' on the blog (see comments below the post), which are not all together positive. One way or another, we would love to know what others think too!
Ben,
I have to say I really enjoyed the podcast and I am glad you did not cut parts out. I have never read any of the books - I think I overdosed on the genre a while back - but maybe I will now read the first one to see what all the fuss is about.

What came across to me was his passion about the topics he was talking about. Whether you agree with him or not is another issue but it is an interesting discussion to have.

thanks again
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Old 13th September 2006, 08:50 AM   #13
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Thanks Guapo! I certainly recommend reading the first book some time, it's definitely the best of the three.
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Old 13th September 2006, 01:44 PM   #14
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Although I had never heard of Chris Stewart before listening to the podcast, I certainly found it to be a very charming, informative one.

I was certainly amazed by his knowledge of the land in which he lived.

I'm a bit curious- how did you get the interview with him? Did you just ring him up out of the blue, or did you know him beforehand?
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Old 13th September 2006, 01:57 PM   #15
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I wrote to his publishers to get a copy of his latest book for reveiw, which they sent, then wrote again to ask if he might be interested in the podcast. They suggested I write an email to him via them. I did, they passed this on, and he wrote to me saying 'come on down' - which was a very nice surprise!
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Old 13th September 2006, 04:11 PM   #16
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and I suppose of course you told him how to sign up for the NFS forums?
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Old 13th September 2006, 05:25 PM   #17
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Damn, knew there was something I forgot to mention...
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Old 13th September 2006, 09:19 PM   #18
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Curiously, while catching up with all the podcasts that got neglected over the past few busy weeks, I heard the podcast with Chris Stewart then immediately listened to the interview with Giles Tremlett on the In Madrid podcast site. Both reflect opinions on the Spanish view of immigration, but coming from differing directions. Chris was very emotional and emphatic, while Giles was the dispationate newspaperman. An interesting contrast.

I was glad you did leave in the "African" passages and what Chris said is true. Most Africans are useless at business. I worked there for twenty years before coming to the middle east and it's a wonder I didn't sometimes pull all my hair out in frustration at the illogicallity of what seemed to them, to be quite normal. But if Chris thinks the first world owes some sort of debt to Africa for our exploitation of the continent then we have more than repaid it in the infrastructure we left them. I first set foot there just after most African "colonies" had won their independance from their European masters and was impressed by the legacy.

Since then the continent has deteriorated dramatically. A school-teacher friend working for the British Council in many different countries voiced that the last expat to leave Africa should turn out the lights as it will eventually return to pre-Livingstone darkness. What the illegals are escaping from is a situation much of their own making. I'm trying hard not to be the superior white man, but twenty years on the continent leaves one asking, "Why can't they .......?" For the average African will do little to ease his own plight - even when shown the solution.
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Old 15th September 2006, 01:54 PM   #19
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As for your lunch at Chris' home, what is the difference between aubergines and eggplant? I googled up an image of an aubergine, and it looks suspiciously familiar.
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Old 15th September 2006, 01:55 PM   #20
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Same thing, different dialect
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