Monday, 26 May 2014


On my last night in London a friend from California, the writer Julia Halprin Jackson, urges me to face the ultimate challenge: to participate in a blog-hop in which a series writers give away the little secrets of their trade by answering a few questions. Being a rookie in the writing world, I feel really honoured to have been selected to join this project. I met Julia in 2006, when she was working as a language assistant in a primary school near Fuengirola. At the time I was leading a bilingual drama workshop with a wonderful Spanish teacher, Pilar Andújar, and soon Julia became one of our main assets. I will always remember her with her little notebook, writing down all the words and expressions that came up in our conversations. We have been in touch since then and she has been a constant collaborator of COLLAGEmagazine (watch out for our next memory issue, she has contributed with a most amazing story in which she pays homage to her grandmother, Amah).

Julia is an accomplished writer: her work has appeared in West Branch Wired, California Northern, Fourteen Hills, Flatmancrooked, Sacramento News & Review, Fictionade, Fiction365, Catalyst and Spectrum, as well as selected anthologies. Julia has been awarded scholarships from the Tomales Bay Writer’s Workshops and the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and earned an M.A. in Creative Writing (fiction) from UC Davis. She lives in Northern California with Ryan, her fiance, where she co-founded and co-curates Play On Words, a collaborative literary performance series. And on top of all this, she’s working on her first novel, which is set in Southern Spain. You can learn more about julia at

So here’s my little contribution to this blog-hop:

What am I working on?

This year in London has been a source of inspiration. I began this blog as part of my project for the European Commission and what started like a sort of “obligation” has become a real pleasure. Thus, even if my Grundtvig assistantship expires today, my intention is to carry on adding entries to this blog. Apart from this, I have been in charge of editing and coordinating the next issue of COLLAGE magazine, which is devoted to the topic of memory and will come out at the end of this month.

Also, I have several projects in mind. One of them is to write the texts that will accompany a book containing the amazing photographs that my partner, Lorenzo Hernández, has taken all throughout this year.

Lorenzo has always encouraged me to write, but I never knew what to write about. Now, all of a sudden, my head is full of stories and characters that are waiting to be put into paper. I don’t really know where this will lead to, but I am really looking forward to embark myself into this adventure.

How is my work different than others in its genre?

I’d say that it’s probably the fact that all what I write is intimately connected to Lorenzo’s photography. His images are always my source of inspiration, although I wouldn’t say that they rule absolutely what I write. I start with the photos and then my imagination runs free.

Having said this, I must admit that Lorenzo’s way of looking at the world through his camera, his personal view, the way he makes the most mundane things beautiful and poetic, rubs off on me a little bit. We spend most of our time talking, we started a conversation almost twenty years ago and we haven’t run out of topics yet, and I think all this food for though must show up in what I write.

How does my writing process work? 

This is a question that has always fascinated me. Do writers know how their stories finish before they start writing or do they find out as they go? Years ago I asked this question to a very dear friend, the Irish writer Siobhan Galvin. She had written two one-thousand-page novels while raising three children and she told me that she used to write every day from 12pm to 13.30, once she had finished tidying up her house and before picking up the kids from school. She never new what she was going to write, it was as if the different characters told her what was going to happen next.

My case is the opposite. I need to have a structure in my head, a scaffolding that I flesh out in several drafts. Like Julia, I like leaving the text to rest and go back to it a few days later. Sometimes I erase everything and start all over again because when I wake up in the morning I suddenly have a much better structure in my head. With the blog I know the topic I am going to write about, I have the images, but I can’t start working until I have this structure.

Why do I write what I do?

Because once I have managed to finish a piece of writing, the pleasure is immense. I have always loved the ends that promise a new beginning, like the new friendship in Casablanca. For me writing is this new beginning.

I have asked three blogger friends to carry the torch: Gloria García Ordóñez, who works as a coach, reflects about life and the human nature in her blog;  José Manuel Cruz Barragán leads a “double life” as an economist and film critic; and Joaquín García Weil is a philosopher and yoga teacher. I admire the three of them and I would like to thank them for joining me in this adventure. Their blogs are in Spanish, so I’ll leave their biographies in this language.


Sevillano de nacimiento y malagueño de adopción. Aunque mi titulación dice que soy Licenciado en Económicas y Master en Administración de Empresas, al mismo tiempo también me apasionan el cine y la literatura. De acuerdo con ello, llevo una "doble" vida en que, por un lado, soy consultor empresarial y asesor financiero independiente y, por otro, soy escritor. En 2013, publiqué mi primera novela, Sin tregua se consumían nuestros ojos, que, espero, tenga continuación en breve. Actualmente, soy el autor de dos blogs: uno de economía, EL DEDO EN EL DATO ( y otro de cine, EL ESPECTADOR IMPERTINENTE (


Cordo-malagueña, filóloga, formadora y coach. Anglófila, bebedora de té, practicante de yoga y entusiasta del vino tinto. Me encanta leer al sol, ver películas, reunirme con mi familia y quedar con mis amigos. Si es alrededor de una cerveza bien fría y de un plato enorme de buen jamón ibérico, mejor que mejor. Disfruto de mis momentos de llanto y aún más de los de risas. Creo que la Vida es increíblemente hermosa y que el dolor es sólo un amigo que trae un mensaje en la mochila. Tengo a la Muerte presente cada día y lo que me mueve es seguir camino mirando hacia adentro, conectando con el otro, aprendiendo y creciendo. Escribir es para mí una auto-terapia primero, y a través de mis reflexiones, nacidas de mi aprendizaje, quiero pensar que puedo aportar algo para que otras personas también avancen en su proceso de auto-descubrimiento. Escribo sobre la vida y sobre el ser humano, desde una perspectiva integradora y sistémica y dentro del marco respetuoso y ecológico que me aporta el coaching


Joaquín García Weil, Licenciado en Filosofía, practica Yoga desde hace veinte años y lo enseña desde hace once. Es alumno del Swami Rudradev (discípulo destacado de Iyengar), con quien ha aprendido en el Yoga Study Center, Rishikesh, India. También ha estudiado con el Dr. Vagish Sastri de Benarés, entre otros maestros. Ha colaborado en Psicología Práctica, Yoga Journal (versión española) y la Revista Dharma. Ha fundado y dirige YogaSala Málaga, centro de yoga y meditación, donde enseña estas disciplinas.

Sunday, 11 May 2014


Mati and daughters

A few years ago Lorenzo photographed a mother and two daughters for his “generations” series. Even if the daughters were in the summit of their beauty, it was the mother, who was in her mid seventies, who stood out. She had this star quality that reminded everyone of the actress Geraldine Chaplin. However, when she saw herself in the portrait, she hated it and she said she didn’t know she looked so old. His daughter, who had commissioned the portrait, displayed it in her apartment, nonetheless. It was not until dozens of people had praised the photo that she started to appreciate it.

This is not news for Lorenzo; we have learned to accept that people feel uncomfortable when seeing their portraits for the first time. We also know that they will eventually grow to love them.

Mati modelling for Lorenzo in Dior
I recently listened to a radio interview with the legendary photographer David Bailey, who is currently showing a retrospective of his work at the National Portrait Gallery, and it gave me food for thought. It did not surprise me to learn that the same happens to him. He said that he loves it when someone who poses for him hates the portrait and then, twenty years later, his wife phones saying: “Do you remember that photo you took of my husband? It’s the best portrait he’s ever had. Could we have a copy now?”

Michael Caine's famous portrait opens David Bailey's Exhibition in London
Bailey tells us an anecdote about Picasso and Gertrude Stein. When she saw her portrait, she said: “ I don’t look like that!” and Picasso retorted: “You will”. A good portrait shows your real self, the one that naturally emerges throughout the years.

In 1999 Bailey was photographing the singer Marianne Faithful. She was in her underwear in the process of changing clothes when he said: “Don’t move. This is the picture.” She was 53 and she looked 53, which is one of the things I love about her. He told her that he wanted to show the world that she was “Marianne Faithful” and didn’t give a monkey’s about what people thought. He took two pictures. In one of them she was serious; in the other one she was laughing. She hated the second one. It was not the fact that the photo showed her mature body; in this sense both photos were identical. It was the grin, with a hint of madness, which upset her. The second photo somehow announced the decadence of the mind, something that terrifies all of us.

It’s easy to please a model: a little bit of photo editing and you are as good as new. It requires boldness to show the poser’s inner self. It also demands the gift to connect with the person that hides behind the mask. Bailey said that doing a portrait is a mode of communication. I cannot agree more. Lorenzo does exactly the same: he talks to the model and clicks, and that’s the picture. He doesn’t need to think about what he’s going to do, it just happens. He says it’s as if it was the unconscious that took the picture.

It’s funny to think that men normally accept this sort of exposure more than women. I wonder why. I am a bit like Marianne Faithful. I have no problems with him photographing my body, but it takes me a while to see my face as it is reflected by the camera. I always look too anxious. Again, this is a reflection of my character: I worry too much. On the other hand, when I look at the first portraits he took of me, I really like what I see, and I have come to accept that this is what will happen to the current ones, eventually.
In a world where digital cameras and photo editing software have made photography accessible to everybody, where it’s so easy to show who you would like to be, not who you are, we really need artists who have the bravery and the talent to reveal people’s inner selves.

You can visit David Bailey’s Stardust at the National Portrait Gallery until 1st June 2014.
You can listen to Tim Marlow interviewing David Bailey for BBC radio at:
To see Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein click here
To see David Bailey’s portrait of Marianne Faithful, click here 

Photography: Lorenzohernandez                            

Saturday, 3 May 2014


A few days ago, Lorenzo found a small jewel in Televisión Española’s website, a programme devoted to a song I used to listen to when I was about twenty, Gabinete Caligari’s Camino Soria (The Way To Soria). In this programme the presenter, Juan Carlos Ortega, offers us a delightful twenty-minute piece of reminiscence. As he tracks the history of the song, he embarks on a personal journey: he recognizes places he used to visit, remembers a girl who rejected him, and he even meets one of my generation’s national heroes, the legendary National Radio DJ Jesús Ordovás.

Ordovás accurately defines Camino Soria as a song-river, because it’s like a flow that carries you downhill. It tells the story of a man who has been abandoned by the woman he loves and decides to embark on a journey to Soria, a small town on the banks of the River Duero in the cold lands of Castilla. Soria has strong links with the poets Machado and Becquer, but Gabinete’s lead singer, Jaime Urrutia, confesses that they chose the name because it rhymed with history (historia), glory (gloria) and memory (memoir).

The programme ends with Juan Carlos and Jaime sitting together on a wooden bench next to the river Duero. Jaime takes the guitar he has been carrying the entire journey out of its case and starts strumming the chords, singing the first lines of the song. Juan Carlos joins him. They sing slightly out of key and Jaime sometimes forgets the chords, but Juan Carlo’s face reflects the joy of reminiscence.

A few weeks ago I had a similar experience along Regent’s Canal. This is one of the most enjoyable walks in London. It was a day that announced spring, the sun was shining brightly for the first time in months and there was an atmosphere of anticipation. We started near King’s Cross, next to the site of Central Saint Martins, one of the best arts and design schools in the world. The building is located in a square covered with little fountains that throw jets of water into the air. There was a group of children in their swimsuits jumping about with contagious thrill. On the terraces that lead to the canal groups of young people were basking in the early spring sun.

Our walk along the Canal was like Camino Soria; we just went with the flow and observed what we found along the way: we came across a young man who had prepared a barbeque receiving his first guest, several couples holding hands, a group of boys having a row under one of the bridges... There were houses whose gardens led to the canal and barges where people lived. 

Some areas were busy and noisy, like the stretch that crosses Camden Lock, and others were peaceful and silent. 

When we reached Regent’s Garden, we saw the back of the aviary from the zoo and when we finally reached little Venice, we found a harbour full of barges that looked like a little village. 

We were about to reach the end of our walk, which lasted for more than four hours, when we came across a huge blackboard with the words “BEFORE I DIE...” written a hundred times. There were pieces of chalk for those who wanted to write a message. In the spur of the moment, I scrawled the first thing that came to my mind: “I want to meet Paul Weller”.

For me Paul Weller was the beginning of all. I was an 11-year-old when I listened to “Going Underground” for the first time. This song was like an epiphany, a sudden realization that there was a world beyond my little life in a town in Southern Spain in 1980. Music has played a key role in my life since then.

When we left the Canal in Little Venice, we walked down the street, crossed it and... guess who was on the other side, holding the hand of a little boy? Paul Weller.

You can watch the video “Going Underground” at

By the way,  do you recognize the poster in the background?

Photos: Lorenzohernandez