Thursday, April 15, 2010


Instead of starting with Pitres, the administrative centre of the seven villages of La Taha and the largest of them, I am going to start with Ferreirola, which was the first that Michael and I visited and the only one of them that he actually saw.

During our sabbatical in Almuñecar we had befriended a Czech lady called Olga Cannon. She was commonly addressed as Lady Olga , a title acquired indirectly through her late husband, Sir Leslie Cannon, an English union leader who had been bestowed a knighthood. Lady Olga was rather glamorous and talkative. She let us know she was a published writer, having written a biography of her husband and was in the process of writing her own. She had two sons, one of them living in La Alpujarra. It seems that he made a mighty Couscous, the recipe of which he had learnt during a long stay in Morocco.

One bright, warm and sunny Winter's day, Olga sprung on us the news that her son had invited us for lunch. We set off at around midday, she in her car, us following her in ours. Keeping up with Olga was an adventure in itself and reaching Ferreirola, the village where Oleg lived, a sheer miracle.

Once we had parked the cars at the entrance of the village and recovered from the hair-raising drive, we found ourselves walking back in time, past the church and down to Oleg’s house.

Michael and I hadn't previously ventured beyond the villages of the Barranco de Poqueira, leave alone going into a village house. As we stepped over the wooden threshold into the darkened hall, I could feel the palpable presence of the Moors who would have, in times past, occupied this dwelling. Their memory so lingers about that it felt quite natural that Olga’s cries of “Oleg, we’re here” should echo and reverberate back at her and at us standing right behind her. Oleg was nowhere to be seen, but I waited breathless for a Moor to suddenly appear in a haze of smoke. With the corner of my eyes, I searched for an Alladin's lamp.

“He must have gone out for a bit”, she puzzled, “come, let me show you the rest of the house!” and so, in the huge kitchen we went. There was a noticeable absence of the aroma of brewing food.

Before long, however, a very angry man barged in and a rather heated argument between mother and son ensued. Michael and I looked at each other nervously. No words were necessary. We stealthily got out of the house and down a short narrow street that led us to the edge of the village from where we took in the loveliest view of the mountains. I will never forget how fresh the air felt.

Despite being very hungry, we happily walked around the fascinating narrow streets. It was so quiet that whatever we said to each other was in whispers. There was something different about the architecture of this village: we noted that most of the houses had no sharp corners, their walls being voluptuously rounded, very reminiscent of Shu Ichimura’s work.

Half an hour later, Olga appeared round a street corner to explain that she had made a mistake and that it was the day before that Oleg had expected us. Without further ado, she turned away and headed for the house, leaving us wondering what to do next... Well, for lack of any other choice, we drove back to Almuñecar and I prepared an early supper.

Many years later, on one of the informative trips of the region with Ole, he told me that the name Ferreirola was derived from Arabic for “blacksmith", that it had some 90 inhabitants and that it was situated at about 1008m of altitude. It had no shops, no supermarkets and, as all the villages of La Taha, it was a haven of peace and tranquillity.

Quiet and tranquil as it is, or possibly because of that, Ferreirola houses many artisans and artiststs such as the Japanese painter Takashi Ishii, the celloist Cat Jary and the guitar maker, Andrés Marvi. There is also a manufacturer and exporter of flamenco dresses and flamenco and ballet shoes.

Little did I know when I first set foot in Ferreirola, that as an estate agent, I will, some years on, be selling Oleg’s house to accommodate the Alexander Music School.

When Olga instructed me to sell the house, she dramatically ordered me to mention that it had been used in the filming of the movie "South From Granada", based on Gerald Brennan’s book of the same name.

Photo 1 Ferreirola Landscape taken by John Ward
Photo 2 Oleg's house, now the Alexander Music School
Photo 3, Typical house with voluptously rounded walls
Photo 4, The fountain & wash house on the Square
Photo 5 Typical Ferreirola street
Photo 6 Concert on the Ferreirola thresing ground organised by Cat Jary. taken by Steve Forrest
Photo 7 Ferreirola, Painting by Takashi Ishii

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