Hawke’s Bay – ‘food and wine country’ – flooded

This photograph was taken from Te Mata Peak, Hawke’s Bay, in June 2022. Today, Hawke’s Bay, a peaceful, agricultural region, is covered in the debris and deluge thrown at it by cyclone Gabrielle.

When I visited the area I stayed with friends from Zimbabwe, former farmers. They’ve built new lives for themselves in Hawke’s Bay. None of it has been easy, but they’ve never stopped. It was a privilege to stay in their beautiful home, and to get to know the area a little.

One day trip was to a stunning old farm house, where the owners had been on the land for several generations, running cattle and sheep on the steep hillsides along the coast. The farm stretches down to a lonely beach. Beyond is the ocean, that goes on and on to Argentina and Antartica. It was idyllic to visit, but it cannot have been easy to develop.

Now, Hawke’s Bay is faced with clearing up and building again.

Here is a link to an article in the New Zealand Herald (2021), about marine heatwaves around the east coast of North Island.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

A glass of sagardoa in Oñati, in the rain

We visited Oñati on a wet weekend. It was a place to stop en route to the monastery just beyond the town. Hoping for lunch we parked the car, and went off in search of the main square.

In the end it was easy to find as we could hear it before we could see it, and most people seemed to be heading in that direction.

The square’s porticos were old and imposing, with music pounding out from one corner, where a large group of parents with pushchairs seemed to be registering for an event. Avoiding the rain we squeezed through them, and made our way round to one of the less crowded cafes on the far side of the square.

We chose the first one we came to. We were early customers, and a table in the corner was free, so we settled in with a bowl piled with olives, a plate of hot, paprika-spiced chips, and some sagardoa (cider) to try. The sagardoa was served by a young woman, who poured the golden liquid from about a foot above the glass, explaining that it always had to be poured from height.

Slowly we dried out, lingering over coffee, and enjoying the warmth and the chat as the bar filled up behind us.

Here’s a link with a sagardoa example.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Postcard remembering Guernica

The man with the guitar is Basque poet and songwriter, José María Iparraguirre (1820 -1881)

Guernica is a place we did know something about. We knew of its horror … but not all of it.

It was grey the day we were there, as grey as Picasso’s painting that we’d seen in Madrid almost two decades earlier. His painting had been a response to this town’s devastation by aerial bombardment – the first town in history to suffer such a fate. The attack took place on April 26, 1937.

It was a Monday afternoon, when the aeroplanes came over. They belonged to Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, and were flying in support of their Spanish ally, Franco, who wished to destroy Basque resistance to his rule. The bombers’ mission was to obliterate the infrastructure of the town, and anything that moved.

Hitler was keen to see how well they did, and whether he might use similar tactics against other nations. He liked what he saw, and he did go on to assault others.

Author Mark Kurlansky describes that day, and its context, in his book The Basque History of the World. The details are shocking. It is almost impossible to believe that human beings could order, or carry out, such an attack. But they did. It lasted three hours, and included incendiary bombs, and bullets fired from above to kill anyone trying to escape.

The day we visited there were displays in the main square featuring photographs of the damage caused in 1937. It felt surreal to see the billboard reminders at the heart of what seemed to be a large and prosperous town.

The streets were busy, and some of the pintxos (bar snacks) in the cafes were the most creative and tempting we’d seen. We could not resist. We found an outside table, and had our lunch, surrounded by the to and fro – the business of being alive.

Here is a short clip, including English journalist George Steer’s account of the bombing of Guernica. He arrived in the town the day after the attack

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023