Tradition meets technology in Menorca

We sit on the veranda to enjoy our first G&T. The thick green glass bottle with the loop at the neck and windmill on the label means we’re back in Menorca. We’ve chosen to rent the same simple apartment as last year, just a few meters away from the shore in the fishing village of Es Grau, and straight away begin to recognise the locals. The feeling seems to be mutual, as they can’t really miss us on the ground floor and at the far end of the small block as they emerge through the narrow lane, whether on foot or by car.

Indeed, coming or going by car they have to stop beside our little wall while they negotiate the gate that creates a barrier across half of the one-car-width road. Clearly designed to maintain a private parking area for the permanent residents, this is no ordinary gate, though. In construction, it’s the bent olivewood twin of those scattered throughout the island, their faded grey a frequent focal point on our hikes along the Camí de Cavalls. Out in the countryside, supported by stone pillars either side, these gates open with a chunky handle that fastens again into a slot with a satisfying thunk. Our neighbours in Es Grau, on the other hand, had gone for mechanisation. Their gate hangs on a metal post, which disappears into a metal cover, below which some magic enables the automatic opening of the barrier at the touch of a zapper from inside your vehicle. Then once through, legitimate users reverse the operation to bring the gate back into place against the inch-high metal stopper that sits in the middle of the road. In theory. Eventually.Continue Reading

A beginners’ day out at the Birmingham Literature Festival

How can I not have been to the Birmingham Literature Festival before now? Ten days of events around writers, books and ideas, virtually on the doorstep – well, better late than never, I suppose. Nor had I been to the newly-built Birmingham Conservatoire, and I would have expected my first encounter with that impressive spaceContinue ReadingContinue Reading

Looking after the semitones with Run By Singers

During a week of singing in southern Spain I lost count of the times maestro Jeremy Jackman exhorted us to look after the semitones. There were plenty of other musical elements to look after as well, of course: timing, rhythm, articulation, dynamics, balance and diction, especially bearing in mind that the programme dictated getting ourContinue ReadingContinue Reading

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