Bryan Hemming

short stories, comment, articles, humour and photography

Lightning visit from Mildura


Castilnovo Tower – Conil beach
For more photos of Conil click photo

A copy of The Dura arrived at our home the other day. Not an unusual occurrence in Mildura, I expect. But the homely-sounding town that bears a name conjuring up an image of a loveable old lady in a hand-knitted cardigan, sipping tea from a china cup, is on the other side of the world from here.

Mildura lies on the banks of the Murray River in Australia’s state of Victoria, which, apart from being the name of an overrated sponge cake, really was at least one overbearing old lady’s name. And still is. Despite her passing. Though she wasn’t quite so loveable according to some accounts. Not as loveable as Mildura, that is. Though I don’t know how loveable Mildura is. Or is not. Having never visited.

Not that old ladies are born old, even though it does sometimes seem that way. Neither are they all loveable. Far from it. I once knew an old lady… well, we won’t go into that.

Perhaps I should elucidate. A lightning visit from the Big L brought The Dura to our door. So lightning it was almost as though delivering the magazine had been the sole purpose of his trip. If that was the case, you have to admire the distibution department.  

On his way from Melbourne to London via Dubai, Spain might have been on his paper round. Hardly with us long enough for a mug of cocoa, let alone explain his erratic, ever-changing schedule, we’ll probably never know.

But, if truth be known, he did stay time enough to fall off a stool with typical Big Les panache. Life rarely gets boring with Biggles about. But we shouldn’t laugh at the misfortunes befalling the afflicted. It’s not fair. And may even be unlawful.

Al´s headThe resultant late night visit to the medical centre was interesting, to say the least. Well, how do you explain someone falling off a stool barely 2 feet from the floor, ending up with a gash needing six or seven stitches? In Spanish to boot. Beats me. All I saw was him disappear behind the other end of the table whilst spreading his arms wide in the manner a man boasting of the size of a recent fish he’d caught. I didn’t want to demonstrate to the medical orderlies, should it end in another skull spilling blood. This time on the medical centre floor. And then there was the distinct possibility of being laughed at. There are places for laughter, and medical centres are not amongst them.

Then again, the Big L could’ve have been demonstrating how to fall out of a rowing boat. It’s definitely something he’d know how to do. The truth will probably always remain a secret, as we both had our memories wiped clean, due to the alcohol consumed and the pandemonium of the moment. Wine isn’t exactly renowned for being a memory aid.

That, and a couple of other unforeseeable events, had him suddenly opting for a visit to Córdoba in typical Big L fashion. Almost in a fit of insanity. Madness. As though it had suddenly become a matter of some urgency to see the ancient capital of Hispania Baetica. Or he may had another periodical to deliver. Then again, it might’ve been the fault of the bump to his head. Or perhaps he’d read somewhere they don’t have low stools in Córdoba. Certainly, he didn’t give himself enough time to work out they might have high ones instead.

Accompanied by his friend Wendy, the ogre teacher – or maybe Big Les said the yoga teacher? They both sound the same to me. Phonetically, I mean. It’s difficult to work out what  people are called, let alone what they’re talking about, sometimes. I blame the drugs. Doctors prescribe far too may these days. I’m on a few more than the average person would consider safe, though I daresay many global, pharmaceutical companies might argue I’m not on half enough. It occurs to me there are those, who believe I should I have a medical certificate to walk the streets. And others who would prescribe some form of restraining device to prevent me.

So what was the general theme? Who knows? To get back to Les and Wendy, they were off like a shot, in a taxi, following a heated discussion over a bus timetable the previous evening. Funny how bus timetables can bring the worst out in all of us. It must surely have been the bump. I blame Andalucian stools myself. Not enough leg on them.

Or maybe it was that afternoon’s walk along the beach from Conil to El Palmar gave the Big L itchy feet. The impetus to get on the move again. Faraway, to another land. As far away as possible from the offending stool.

The beach was kind of lonely in a gentle, empathetic sort of way. If beaches ever get lonely. Only in poems, probably, which made it feel good. The sun was out but not nearly hot enough to slow walking into a plod. It takes about an hour to stride viciously, and an extra half hour, or more, to saunter carelessly to El Palmar. Through sand, so let’s call it sandering.

One of the major surf destinations in Europe… scrub that, sounds too touristy. The beach front at El Palmar is dotted with surf bars and surf shops interspersed by cane groves. There were a few surfers out the day we were there. The waves looked excellent to a non-surfer. Kinda big and frothy on top. Like a lake of silver grey beer on the move. And talking of beer, most of the bars were closed. Winter isn’t known for its dawn to dawn chorus of myriad tills ringing cheerfully round these parts. We found one open. Seemed good enough, and the customers looked like they needed a few more people to look at. Or maybe it was to look at them. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Costa de la Luz has been under attack since before Phoenicians sailed these seas. Now it’s under attack from banks and property speculators, who want to give it the full Marbella makeover.

The Battle of Trafalgar was fought just a few miles away at Cabo Trafalgar, Los Caños. October 21st 1805, according to Nelson’s diary entry that day. I made that bit up. Not the battle bit, the bit about the diary. Old salts call them logs for some reason. I wonder what they call logs?

The residents of Conil would have had a fine view of the mighty sea battle from the hills of the pueblo. On a clear day you can see Morocco, and on a fine night, the lights of Tangiers twinkle in the far distance. Castilnovo, in the photo, is one of five towers built to guard the coast and warn of imminent attack from pirates or invaders.

By the time we got back to Conil a silver, wintry sun was setting as the gold speckled River Salado meandered lazily into the vast Atlantic Ocean. And by lunchtime next day, in the flash of an instagram, the Big L and the yoga teacher were somewhere else. Doing his global paper round, I suppose. Don’t expect we’ll hear too much from them again.

January sunset

View of the River Salado emptying into the Atlantic Ocean seen from the pedestrian bridge before sunset.
Click on photo for more photos of Conil


10 comments on “Lightning visit from Mildura

  1. rangewriter
    February 14, 2014

    Love your writing! You have the gift of clean, cerebral humor.


    • Bryan Hemming
      February 15, 2014

      Thank you, Linda. I’m not so sure I deserve such fulsome praise, as there is sometimes an evil dwarf with a quiver full of poison arrows behind my stories.


  2. auntyuta
    February 14, 2014

    Reblogged this on auntyuta.


    • auntyuta
      February 14, 2014

      Hi Bryan, I am in a bit of a mess right now. I tried to forward your email to Noeleen, but it did not get through. I thought to the same address it went through not so long ago. I’ll see whether Peter can help me to find out more.
      Regards, Aunty Uta
      PS: I visited Mildura last year for two overnight stays. I found it a very lovable town! I reblogged your post but must admit I did not read it all yet, but I read Noeleen’s and your comment to it.


      • auntyuta
        February 14, 2014

        It’s me again, Bryan. I had Peter checking on it whether I used the right email address. He thinks I did. So Noeleen must have cancelled her last email address. I guess, there’s nothing we can do about this, is there?


      • Bryan Hemming
        February 14, 2014

        I had two email addresses for Noeleen, and neither worked. I also thought I had a postal mail address, but I don’t appear to. My hope is that someone else hasn’t started interfering with her life, as it’s the last thing she needs.


    • Bryan Hemming
      February 14, 2014

      Thanks so much, Uta.


  3. WordsFallFromMyEyes
    January 25, 2014

    Sigh. Choice writing again. Absolutely love your close, Bryan – in the flash of an instagram. Bloody excellent.

    That falling off the stool reminded me of my aunty who never drank, one Christmas had half a glass of wine. God knows why. Oh yes, she was also very religious. Anyway, that particular afternoon on the lawn where aunties, uncles, cousins sat (most drinking), and Aunty Betty having that outrageous tipple – that afternoon, she fell off her chair. Never lived it down.

    Damn it Bryan, you write so well. You HAVE to be making your living from writing? If not you, there’s hope for none of us.


    • Bryan Hemming
      January 25, 2014

      Unfortunately, I haven’t made any money from writing since moving to Spain. I really hope I’ll be able to change that state of affairs this year.

      At the moment, most of our income comes from Anji’s portraits and my photos. We’ve also started producing postcards of our work, which are gaining in popularity.

      As you probably know from your own experiences, investment is the key. Without backers, or your own private funds, it’s very difficult to get the sort of capital needed for art projects. Despite both of us putting in a hell of a lot of work, our present income barely supports our most basic needs. But we’re working on it.

      There’s hope for us all, Noeleen. Though you have yet to fulfill all your dreams, you’re a living example of that.


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This entry was posted on January 23, 2014 by in Articles, Humour, Travel and tagged , , , .

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