Bryan Hemming

short stories, comment, articles, humour and photography

Where did the rest of summer go?

Plaza de Santa Catalina

No sooner was I soaking up the long-awaited May sun rays than I woke up to find it was September. Where did the rest of summer go? Encroaching age has transformed my summers into a continual blur of speeding trains punctuated by long intervals when nothing much happens. I feel like a man standing on a country village  railway station watching inter-city expresses whizz by. Blink, and you miss them. It wasn’t always that way. When I was a child, summers were endless, and the occasional train stopped at our village station.

As clouds move in crowds move out. The bars and restaurants of old Conil no longer buzz and bustle incessantly, the tills no longer ring. Cooks and washers-up idle at kitchen doors, chewing the fat with waiters who have taken up leaning on counters again, while their bosses eye them pointedly. Instead of waiting at tables they are waiting to be laid off for the long winter months without work or wages.

The main holiday season is short in the Andalusian pueblo. Starting around mid-June it fizzles out just before the new school year begins, the first, or second, week of September. Hordes of regular visitors, who exchange the stifling heat of Seville and Madrid for a couple of weeks soaking up sun on the airy beaches of the Costa de la Luz, will have to content themselves with photos and memories until next year.

The same annual influx presents an opportunity for Angelica and I to make an extra crumb or two. They come in handy for the lean months of autumn, winter and spring. And I mean crumbs. Even then we have to slog for them. That’s one reason my posts have been rather more unpredictable recently, for those of you who noticed.

Previous summers have seen Angelica set up her easel on possibly the most expensive couple of flagstones to be rented in all Conil de la Frontera to draw portraits. However, this year, as part of the local council’s contribution to the arts, she was offered a temporary lock-up stall erected on the square in the town centre dominated by the church of Santa Catalina. Rent-free to boot.

By the late nineteenth century, Santa Catalina, which had undertaken the wearying task of overseeing the spiritual rectitude of Conil for more than five hundred years, had suffered repair and reform so many times little of the original remained. In 1886 the architect, Pascual de Olivares, set about completely redesigning the exterior of the building to retain as much of the existing interior supporting structure as possible. It was reopened for services in 1891. But not for long. Less than fifty years on, the building had fallen into such a state of disrepair again, it posed a danger to worshippers. Its doors had to be closed in 1930. For most of the following eight decades its doors remained shut as it deteriorated further. It wasn’t until 2012 Santa Catalina opened its doors to the public anew. Transformed into an exhibition centre, the latest renovation has kept the Olivares façade.

The church’s slightly eccentric redesign always reminds me of Christopher Dresser (1834 1905). It fits into the period of the Aesthetic Movement of the latter half of the 19C, when the Scottish designer was at the height of his fame. If Dresser had designed wedding cakes, they would probably have ended up looking a bit like the Olivares exterior. One of the first independent industrial designers, Dresser’s, often dark, neo-Gothic style was typical of the Victorian period. Yet some of his designs for silver coffee pots and teapots appear extraordinarily modern today. Dresser’s designs are still being produced by Alessi, the Italian Factory of Design, including his famous toast rack.

Nearly all Angelica’s endeavours involve me in one way or another and the stall was no exception. Our days began at seven or eight each morning, not finishing until midnight. New batches of postcards and business cards were constantly needed, they’re my department. Preparing drawings and paintings for the stall took up quite a bit of time. We opened the second week of August.

After a day’s work starting about eight, a late lunch, and a very brief siesta, Angelica and I had to trek back into town each evening. It’s a twenty minute walk. Opening up involved a bit of heavy lifting. By the time we’d packed up and closed the shutter it was after midnight. Then there was the twenty-minute walk back, all uphill.  A quick snack and a sit-down meant we never go to bed before two in the morning. Though three weeks doesn’t seem a long time, in theory, seven days a week with little sleep gets very wearing.

Making a halfway decent living for an artist and a writer anywhere in the world is practically impossible. Unless you become a favourite of the ever-shrinking moneyed classes. And they’re very few and far between. We can only hope and pray. Angelica is one of the only artists in Conil who relies on her income from art. We both do. Apart from my photos, we have little else on offer.

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We didn’t expect too much, so we weren’t disappointed. The majority of Angelica’s portrait commissions came from former clients returning for more. Nevertheless, it was a good exercise in public relations, serving as an attraction for tourists and showing one of the cultural aspects to the town. We’ll probably do the same next year. If we get invited, that is.

This year’s stallholders were:

  • Angelica Westerhoff portraits, paintings and drawings. Angelica’s work can be seen at: el Mercado de abastos (main market) Conil. 10.30am – 1.30 pm Mon-Sat. Alternatively, to see more of her work click onto: and She can be contacted  through:
  • Energia hats (Liz). Contact Liz through facebook at: energiaconil
  • Mariam Alamaz painter (, Nuria Baena painter and music⁄ producer ( Their works can also be seen at: mercado de arte (art market) in Conil.
  • Robert André seascapes. Contact Bob By phone at: (+34) 9956445271
  • Ignacio Rodríguez-Arbaizagoitia Calero, painter.
  • Luisa Rey Barroso, paintings. Contact Luisa at:

Copyright © 2014 Bryan Hemming


18 comments on “Where did the rest of summer go?

  1. Laura Bloomsbury
    October 1, 2014

    had popped off on holiday when you posted this Bryan- Suffolk is not exactly Spain so reading a slice of your life (so well told) is fascinating. No wonder time flew with a busy schedule – shows the unromantic side of living off one’s art and wits. p.s. Angelica looks like a work of art and her work is remarkable

    p.s. any more missives from S. Catalina – I miss them?!


    • Bryan Hemming
      October 2, 2014

      There are quite a few Missives from Santa Catalina in various stages of completion and I return to them from time to time to edit. But there doesn’t seem quite enough days in the week anymore. Anyone know what happened to Wednesdays? We don’t seem to be getting them down here in Spain. I think it might have something to do with the austerity cuts. I go to bed on Tuesday night only to get up next morning with everybody telling me it’s Thursday.


      • Laura Bloomsbury
        October 2, 2014

        Baroness Ashton does not like Wednesdays – you know the lyric about the child and full of woe.
        Here I have to learn the day of the week on rising in case the GP does a spontaneous alzheimer’s test and I’m whisked off I not not where – preferably Santa Catalina

        Liked by 1 person

  2. angelica westerhoff
    September 21, 2014

    Bryan, please put the last sentence off, it´s stupid. I mean my comment.


    • Bryan Hemming
      September 22, 2014

      I dunno, I rather like it. The comment, I mean. It brings much-needed controversy to my comments section.

      The tinned tongue is meant to be as disgusting as spam. By that I mean the the spam you get in your inbox, not the Spam that comes in a can. I have fond memories of Spam in a can from my schooldays. Eating a crispy, round roll with a slice of Spam and a slice of tomato on margarine, at the cafeteria in Leicester’s Victoria Park pavilion, was the height of passive-aggressive rebellion for me. We never had margarine at home and hardly ever had Spam. For that reason alone I liked the daring novelty of it.


  3. angelica westerhoff
    September 21, 2014

    Bryan, thank you so so much for helping me so much in all those past summers, and winters.


    • Bryan Hemming
      September 21, 2014

      Through thick and thin, it’s always wonderful to see the results of all the hard work you put in and the smiling faces of your subjects, or victims, as you like to call them.


  4. rangewriter
    September 20, 2014

    Wow, that IS a busy and long day. No wonder summer evaporated before your eyes. From my perspective it seems like all the seasons fly by. I love each one of them, probably summer the least. But fall, winter & spring are glorious where I live and I never get enough of them.

    They are wonderful portraits.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bryan Hemming
      September 21, 2014

      Fall – or as we know it in England, autumn – is very pleasant here too. In September and October the weather is Goldilocks time, not too hot and not too cold, just right. Autumn and winter are more like Northern European springs, when all the wild flowers begin to sprout. Great times for photography. But I suspect they’re a bit like your neck of the woods.


      • rangewriter
        September 22, 2014

        Those are my favorite months because kids are back in school, traveling is easy, and the roads are mostly empty. The weather in my town is typically wonderful as well. We often get a cold snap, but then enjoy a month or more of what is called Indian Summer. Don’t ask me why it’s called that. I’ve heard discussions about that topic and no one seems to have any conclusive ideas. But, the leaves change colors, the gardening slows to a crawl, and life is just plain good. Enjoy your Goldilocks time.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. ginjuh
    September 20, 2014

    Just popped over to her sight, and those portraits are amazing! If I were an artist us Spain, and want a longer summer, too.(but I’m not. I’m a mom, and fall means my kids are in school and that I get to wear turtlenecks)

    Liked by 1 person

    • ginjuh
      September 20, 2014

      *in Spain, *I’d want a longer Summer
      Typo city


    • Bryan Hemming
      September 21, 2014

      Turtlenecks, how I miss them. Do you think they’ll ever become popular again? I mean popular outside your house?

      Seems to me you have one of the best and most rewarding jobs around, done properly, even though it must be very frustrating at times. And I’m sure you are doing it properly just from reading your wonderful posts.


  6. therapyjourney
    September 20, 2014

    This is wonderful, certainly brings back memories….!


    • Bryan Hemming
      September 21, 2014

      Thanks, it’s a real pleasure to receive positive comments, as it makes the effort so worthwhile.


  7. Wendy Kate
    September 20, 2014

    I agree, summer has gone so quickly but actually it is a relief now the tourists have left and you can actually find somewhere to park on the coast….Angelica’s portraits look wonderful and I love Liz’s hats!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bryan Hemming
      September 21, 2014

      Yup, though they provide our bread and butter, they also clog up the highways and byways of the pueblo.

      Liz will be pleased to hear that, and Angelica will be very happy to read your comment. She deserves the compliment for all her hard work. What a little beaver she is, cracking away the whole year, and twice as much in summer!

      Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on September 20, 2014 by in Art, Articles, Photos, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , .

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