A passion for life

When he looked back, in retrospective, he felt his life had not been in vain.


Puente sobre del río Stratford-upon-Avon. U
Bridge over the river
Stratford-upon-Avon. UK

The young woman was quiet for a spell, pondering the question, while he smiled with a mischievous grin on his face.

“I wouldn’t dare say, Sir John. Perhaps, he tired of cleaning them and sold them all off?”, she answered in a doubtful voice.

Sadly smiling, he answered:

“Three hundred and forty-three, not one less, nor one more! He never sold, exchanged or bought any one of the bloody coins. Ironically, grandfather was ever so fond of wealth. I dare say that the least valuable of them all, was worth a handsome income. Now you tell me, what kind of a collector would ever behave in that fashion?”

Caminando las calles Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Walking the streets
Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

“When I began to go to school in Stratford, I had a collection of glass-marbles. I loved those little glass wonders. Every single one of them! I was willing to trade off the most common ones, the repeats, for that rare marble, for that beautiful marble that I had to have, at whatever cost!”

“A real collector has this drive to watch his collection grow, to turn it into the best compilation he is capable of achieving. For, in the end, he is immensely proud of his treasure and longs to see it thrive.  He will be most willing to display it to the rest of the world so that in turn, it may be admired by all. The perpetual longing that afflicts his soul resides in his blood.”

Vista del río Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
View of the river
Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

“Possession, my dear Alicia, without that enthusiasm and unrelenting passion is merely empty custody and guardianship of a group of inert and lifeless objects, and that, my dear, is as worthless as his collection! What a shameful and tremendous waste….” “

“The good news is… when my father inherited the coins, each one had been so thoroughly cleaned and was as shiny as the most beautiful ray of dazzling light”

La entrada Stratford-upon-Avon
The North House
Stratford-upon-Avon

 

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They start to kiss you!

Chapter 3… The Chinandegan magpies


The fishermen Granada, Nicaragua
The fishermen
Granada, Nicaragua

“Thank you very much, I´m sure I am all that and so much more,” he added with a mischievous smile, “you’ll place them right in your pocket, and you can keep them there too; but, allow me to enlighten you: in this valley of tears, there are no free lunches, no sir, nothing, my dear, nothing comes for free.”

“Whatever are you talking about, Grandfather?”

“Honey chile, they´ll be so pleased with you that they will want to pull your cheeks with pleasure, mark my prophetic words of wisdom! But the worst of it all…the most infamous thing that can cruelly be done to an innocent child, like I was once upon a time is… you know what I´m talking about?” he innocently asked wearing his favorite poker face.

“They start to kiss you! Oh yes!” At this point he began to get carried away as he raised the volume of his voice. “With lips crammed with sticky, gooey, fire-man red lipstick, they will kiss you on the cheek, if you’re not careful, on the forehead too! Just in case that’s not enough, they will lick a finger and then wipe you, or smear it all over your cheek, like Aunt Sagrario loved to do. You’ll walk off there with your face painted like a Navajo warrior in the middle of a steaming Nicaraguan tropical day. Your friends will cry themselves to an early grave, and you´ll have nowhere to hide!”

 


Versión en español            In the land of volcanoes’ Chapters           Purchase the book

A shiny collection of antique coins

In the comfort of his daily routines, he found the subterfuge to avoid thinking…


El salón de té Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
The tea parlor
Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

“During the trip, I had the opportunity to observe the early, morning, before-breakfast rituals… it is no wonder that my grandmother scarcely talked! What can you say to a person like that?”

“John Henry, my dearest Alice, inherited a collection of remarkably rare and valuable coins when his father passed away. Three hundred and forty-three antique coins to be more precise. In the afternoons after tea, he would wash his hands as if he were a surgeon preparing for the operating room. Once his hands were immaculate and faultlessly clean, then grandfather would take the coins out, one by one.”

Las calles del pueblo Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
The town’s streets
Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

“Immediately after, he would clean each one, scrupulously and meticulously, and then, he would immediately put them away, each of them carefully placed each in a separate, little felt bag until the next afternoon. Now I ask you, how could they possibly need daily cleaning if he didn’t allow them to be handled at any other time or by any other person?”

“Meanwhile, in that rarely broken silence in the room, the soft beating of grandmother’s knitting needles was faintly heard, occasionally interrupted by grandfather’s knee-jerking grunts and vibrant groans. When he died, how many coins do you guess my father inherited?”

El Río Avon Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
The Avon River
Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

He continued abruptly, not allowing her to answer, his eyes shining with excitement.  “I´ll provide you with a clue that will help you decipher this enigmatic question. Less than half were one-of-a-kind.  All the other coins were not unique, you see?

Té sobre el río Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Tea at the river
Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

 

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Grandfather’s great Sunday adventures

Who would be the daring enough to boldly modify his routine, ready to risk all and try something new in their life


Las calles de la ciudad ciudad de Londres, UK
The city streets
London City, UK

“Ten minutes after finishing such an extraordinary breakfast, he would go for a stroll, no matter the climate. He walked ten blocks to the North until he reached the train-tracks. Without stopping, he turned West and walked five more blocks, following the tracks.”

“When he arrived, at that point, he rested for two minutes on the dot. Replenished from his efforts, he began walking back. First, he strolled ten blocks south, of course, finally bearing East to arrive back at home in exactly twenty-two minutes, not twenty-one, and of course, never twenty-three.”

Las fachadas ciudad de Londres, UK
Facades
London City, UK

“On the other weekdays (to be precise, on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays), he also had two eggs for breakfast. They were boiled for two minutes, measured by the black grains of another sand-clock. Instead of bread, he would then eat two crackers with butter but no jam.”

“He would go out for a walk as well, but he inverted the direction and began by heading West and then North. He arrived back home in exactly twenty-two minutes, no more and no less.”

Vistas de las calles ciudad de Londres, UK
Street view
London City, UK

“The greatest adventures of his life, he reserved for Sundays. On those remarkable days, he had two sunny-side-up eggs with ham. Surprisingly, he drank coffee instead of tea, which might be considered preposterous, but understandable. As it happens, my great-grandmother, who grew up on the continent, loved her coffee in the mornings, or so they said. So, in a way, my grandfather was replicating a ritual acquired when he was a boy, without a thought on how unconventionally he was behaving.”

La rueda de la fortuna ciudad de Londres, UK
The merry-go-round
London City, UK

 

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And to die… nobody’s in a hurry

Chapter 3… The Chinandegan magpies


La Esperanza Store Leon City, Leon, Nicaragua
La Esperanza Store
Leon City, Leon, Nicaragua

“But I don´t remember any aunties with such strange names; did they die already?”

“They´re dead all right, you can be sure of that!” he replied with a huge grin. “Look, this happened when I was around seven years old. Miss Clarissa, at the time, was probably close to ninety. She was the eldest of the three, which goes without saying.”

“Wow, they were really old, don´t you think, Grandfather?”

“Old? That’s certainly the understatement of the year, honey chile!” he answered with a nice long chuckle. “It´s true those hens wouldn’t cook at first boil! Fact is, when I was a kid, back then, like you are today, we didn´t have to hurry for anything. No one was in a hurry. Why we hadn´t even heard the word! Least of all, nobody was in a hurry to die, especially the magpies. They had forgotten it was their turn to get up and die and make some room for the next.” As he answered, I noticed he was thoughtful. Suddenly, he brightened, as he spoke enthusiastically.

 


Versión en español            In the land of volcanoes’ Chapters           Purchase the book

Two soft-boiled eggs in the mornings

For him, his routines were the spiritual equivalent of praying in church, and so, he avoided the possibility of novelties, surprises or improvisations penetrating the comfortably absolute emptiness of his life.


El puente ciudad de Londres, UK
The bridge
London City, UK

 “Bearing that in mind, I’ll briefly describe one of his morning routines…  As I mentioned, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, he had two soft-boiled eggs.”

“These were to be cooked by my grandmother in precisely three minutes, timed by the white grains of a sand-clock exclusively acquired for that purpose. The poached eggs were served together with two slices of bread, previously cut to a precise and identical size.”

Mañas en el lago ciudad de Londres, UK
Mornings at the lake
London City, UK

“First, my grandmother cut off the bread’s crust. Then, she measured the exact amount of butter with a special spoon, trimming it with a knife to remove the excess. Both knife and spoon were used only for this specific task. Any other use of these would have constituted a heresy that heralded the end of the world, as we know it!”

“Grandmother would then delicately spread jam over the butter. She measured the correct amount with a different spoon that she used solely for that purpose.”

El salvavidas ciudad de Londres, UK
The lifesaver
London City, UK

“He drank, exactly, one cup of tea to ease his digestion. The infusion of the said drink was done in three minutes, while the eggs were cooking.”

“Before grandfather began to eat, he meticulously inspected the food, while grandmother watched, listening nervously while awaiting his grunt of approval.”

Reflejos sobre el espejo del agua ciudad de Londres, UK
Refections on the water
London City, UK

 

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Corporals, Sargent and Grandmothers

He liked to have others do his thinking for him, felt secure when obeying orders, how he rejoiced when on parade, as they marched on time, his companions of arms in perfect and synchronized order, never stepping ahead of them, and much less, falling behind, carrying the waving flag on his shoulder with pride…          (Tombstone of the unknown corporal)


Bandera mexicana Londres. UK
Mexican flag
London streets, London, UK

“I hope not to be boring you to death. If not, allow me to explain the enormous number of small, tiny, useless, but regrettably, unavoidable, details to be observed, and attended to, while preparing my grandfather’s morning, daily, and most dull, tasteless, breakfast. I doubt that in all mankind’s history there has ever been a creature as picky, as fussy and so thoroughly fastidious as my grandfather, Sir John Henry.”

La bandera inglesa Calles de Nightsbridge , UK
The British Flag
Nightsbridge streets , UK

Happily laughing, Alicia answered in an excellent mood:

“Bore me, Sir John? Quite the opposite. Today has happened to be a most memorable day. It’s been years since I’ve had such a good time.”

“Well, if sharing a few cups of tea with this old geezer has turned out to be one of the most memorable times in your life. I must thank you, indeed, for such an undeserved honor, but you make me wonder on the extreme monotony of the life you have led,” he answered, delighted by her pleasant company.

La plazuela Calles de Nightsbridge , UK
The plaza
Nightsbridge streets , UK

“The daily rituals, my grandparents followed, required absolute exactitude and precise timing, for grandfather could not, and did not, tolerate any deviation whatsoever from his constraining instructions. And what had been established by him was rigorously pursued by my grandmother. She, silent as always, was a consummated artist of the repetitious and recurrent arts of the daily kitchen routines.”
“Grandmother excelled in following orders in an exact, accurate and punctual way. I must say that she could have been an excellent corporal or maybe even a sergeant. For, you see, she had no capacity for spontaneity, much the less for creativity, and lacked any possible traces of originality.”

Banderas Calles de Nightsbridge , UK
Flags
Nightsbridge streets , UK

 

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And the cheeks too

Chapter 3… The Chinandegan magpies


Sunset at the island Ometepe Island, Rivas, Nicaragua
Sunset at the island
Ometepe Island, Rivas, Nicaragua

“Yes and no chile. In my case, and not feeling at all like a hero, I had to pay with a peck on the cheek! And right on top of that silly makeup, they plastered their ugly faces with.”
“Wow! That sounds more like a scary tale than a fairy tale, Gramps!”
“That’s so scary, Grandfather, did you close your eyes so you wouldn’t see the trolls?”
“Yep, I didn’t see them, but I smelled them, chille. Those ugly trolls reeked like mummies in a closet during a hot day!”
“The funny thing is that they must have believed in miracles and with their eyes closed…”
“If not, why would they bother with all that makeup? Now, if they were looking for miracles, they could have gone to church! Anyhow, when times are tough, we tough guys get our cheeks pinched. That’s life hon, so, may as well start getting used to it!”
“They pulled your cheeks, Grandpa? With those mean old women sitting at the street, I’d stop eating candies, but there’s no way I’d go out and walk to the store just to get some!


Versión en español            In the land of volcanoes’ Chapters           Purchase the book

Spinning routines

From her vantage point, in a beam of the ceiling high above the room, the spider silently spun her web, while observing the humans that below her, went about their incomprehensible daily routines


El ferrocarril Londres, UK
The train
London, UK

“There’s not much to be said about my grandmother. Her life was as sparing as her conversations. She spent her days in silence, sitting in her rocking chair, the back as straight as an arrow and her legs bundled in a blanket, unremittingly knitting all sorts woollen clothes for no one to wear.”

“On the rare occasions when grandfather spoke, she would limit herself to wholeheartedly agreeing and praise him for his wisdom. Then, she would soundlessly return to her incessant weaving.”

“Upon her death, she left behind a most impressive number of boxes. As to be expected, they were full to the brim with all sorts of useless woollen clothing, yet she had scarcely left any memories behind, for me to remember her by.”

Fachadas Londres, Inglaterra
Facades
London, UK

“Somehow, it was my grandmother’s funeral, that gave me the impression that my entire childhood unfolded stuck in gigantic spiderwebs. The first was a dense, dark black widow’s nest with a furtive and deadly obese widow in London. Then I moved on to the next. That was in Stratford, where a different web was waiting for my arrival. A dangerous trap, more of the domestic sort that killed its victims by lethargic indifference and boredom. The monotony of the daily routines of those spiders was spun into the same, identical designs day after day, again and again until it became the blurry image of an empty progression of nothingness.”

Vistas del parque Londres, UK
A view of the park
London, UK

“Curiously, my grandfather and I shared the same name, though his complete name was John Henry and mine was simply John. As I remarked a few cups of tea earlier, he was an accomplished master in the art of avoiding risks of any kind and at any time whatsoever.” 

“To give you an idea of the impressive scope of his imagination, let me mention how he began his days…  On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, he enjoyed a couple of soft-boiled eggs for breakfast.”

Calles de Kensington Ciudad de Londres. UK
Kensington’s streets
London, UK

 

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Life’s dreams

Chase your dreams, before they slip away

Ruby Tuesday, The Rolling Stones


El puente Londres, UK.
The bridge
London, UK.

“Of course, when I found out that I would be moving to Rugby and live with my grandparents, I received those happy tidings most cheerfully. It’s not easy to imagine the relief I felt. I would then leave Mary Louise behind and her never-ending sermons as well. Her tedious lessons would fade as memories of the past! As far as I was concerned that was the best news I had ever received.”

La esquina Londres, UK.
The corner
London, UK.

“Regrettably, I had not met my grandparents, and for that simple reason, I failed to understand that moving to Rugby only meant a change of prison walls.” For a moment, Sir John was thoughtful before continuing.
“I must confess, I believed that compared to the alternative of living with Mary Louise, this change constituted an excellent opportunity. How naïve one we are at times!”

Las fachadas Calles de Londres, UK
Facades
London , UK

“My grandfather turned out to be the most boring person I have ever met in all my life! Compared to my grandfather, Mary Louise was a barrel of laughs…”

“My great-grandparents, by the way, were born in Berlin. They met there and later on, for some reason decided to move to England. This happened before my grandfather was born. Years later, they moved to Paris, where they lived till the end of their days.”

“When they decided to move to France, my grandfather wished them the best of luck, and all those things. He remained behind to live his life in England. By then, he had married Victoria, my grandmother.”

Vista del lago Londres, UK
View of the lake
London, UK

 

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