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Month: February 2021

Havana Good Time – Part Dos

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, reflections on the sea and Cuban cats…


Last time, I looked at Hemingway’s house in Havana and his deep connection with the area over a long period.

Hemingway was inspired to write “The Old Man And The Sea” in that house, a short but perfectly formed masterpiece of the relentlessness of Nature, the triumph of carrying on, the acceptance of what has to be – and be reconciled with – and the critical importance of striving. Particularly heroic striving against insurmountable obstacles. The sweet taste of triumph: an enormous catch wrestled from the Deep. Followed by the realisation that the old man was on a small boat a long way from home. With sharks in close attendance.

The nearby town of Cojima, with its sweeping bay and crumbling fort, must have felt part of him as he wrote, the panoramic far horizon filled with different shades of blue would have offered the promise of adventure and fulfillment, but nonetheless a vista absolutely not to be taken for granted.

The book cries out the old fisherman’s love for the power of Nature and his love for the fish that he hunts, all part of the ongoing Circle of Life.

An aspect of that Circle was, for Hemingway, the allure of cats. He was a self-confessed ailurophile, owning over fifty of them during his time at the house. At the same time, not serially, a wave just as impossible to resist as the sea itself. Especially at feeding time.
He is “credited” with making six-toed cats – polydactyl cats – an important part of the feline population of Cuba. Six toes – one more with which to shred furniture. Hemingway would have hated the notorious times of the Special Period in Cuban history following the collapse of the Soviet Union when, amongst other signs of desperation, the population resorted to consuming cats for sustenance.

That is no longer needed, although the humans will need to trust in the feline population not keeping a group memory of those dark times and bearing a grudge. Not something to presume: cats play a long game. I’m reluctant to raise the subject with my cat.

There are no feline residents these days at Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s beloved Havana home. Purported descendants of Hemingway’s cats live at his other house and museum in Key West. Finca Vigia seems strangely empty without any.

Hemingway referred to his cats as “purr factories”, once saying that “one cat leads to another”. Happily he was too early to be referring to the Special Period.

All of this made me think about Hemingway, his relationship with Nature, reflected in his writing, the lean and mean – some might say cadaverous – quality of his writing, particularly of “The Old Man And The Sea”, and my mind wandered to his famous bet.

It’s his remarkable wager that I shall talk about in Part Tres.

Maybe just another Daiquiri, or six…

Cheers, Papa!

Alan

Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose with beard

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Havana Good Time – Part One

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a trip down memory lane, Cuban-style in a classic automobile…


We were in Cuba for a holiday almost exactly a year ago, before COVID took a grip on all of us.

Seems like years ago.

Havana in particular was awash with gorgeous classic American automobiles (not just cars: automobiles – they deserve to be called more than mere cars). Those automobiles are a Cuban calling card.

They had been sadly under-used, even before the outbreak of the virus, relying on a trickle of tourists rather than the flood which would descend from US cruise ships in better times. Times long gone, then re-instated, then once more long-gone with the bite of the further crushing US sanctions biting into the population, then COVID-19.

The time of cruise ships is surely gone forever, regardless of the political climate, a sobering thought for the Cuban population awaiting those better times.

We went on Ernest Hemingway’s trail in Cuba, keeping a low profile in our bright orange Buick (one of many that we hailed) in the sunshine. The trail was littered with bright shards of Hemingway’s life. Cuba was the place where he seemed most obviously at home until forced to leave by a sharp clash of revolutionary and reactionary politics. I thought I’d share with you some of that journey and what came out of it.

Finca Vigia – Hemingway’s home in Cuba for twenty years – is nowadays a place of pilgrimage and will no doubt endure. Bus-loads of tourists descended on the spectacular “Lookout Farm” (the blunt English translation from the as usual more romantic Spanish) while we were visiting. The tower that gave it this name is designed to accommodate hordes of tourists gingerly clambering up the one person wide rickety steps accommodating – or trying to accommodate – simultaneous up and down traffic. That is something to bear in mind when once again you get the chance to visit this place.

When I was already a long way up, I found that it would be a really short way down without civilised stair etiquette.

We were tourists, too, just in a smaller bus. Not that much smaller, come to think of it, given the Buick’s voluptuous curves and not-at-all dainty footprint.

The property is a place where, without the gold dust of the Hemingway connection, most people would draw level with the entrance to the winding drive, mutter ‘I wonder what’s up there’, then drive past. They would move on to the next attractive example of faded glory, inevitably mixed with pockets of quiet desperation. It’s a remarkable testament to the power of icons, infusing gravitas into bricks and mortar.The inside of the house is not open to visitors. Everyone must take their turn and crane their neck through the open windows. The house is mercilessly exposed to visitors by those open windows. That gives a strange feeling of space and connection, no tomb-like atmosphere.

Visitors are forced to perform contortions, not least to avoid an ear or a corner of someone’s parasol in their snapshots. All to catch glimpses of things like the nine thousand or so books stuffed into the building, untouched from Hemingway’s day except to be worshipped by the army of staff individually and relentlessly hand-cleaning each book. It would be a firing offence to smear a sticky finger from a stolen bite of a pastelito over one of the treasured tomes. Probably more than just firing.

Stretching the scene into a touch of the absurd, possibly even slightly grotesque, for a peso or two one of the guardians is happy to sneak your camera deeper into the house to take close-ups of the bathroom and elsewhere with the promise of transformation from the mundane to the magical. I politely refused the proffered virtual tour of Hemingway’s bathroom.

How all of that comes together with the Old Man and the Sea, will be in Part Two…

Cheers.

Alan

Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose with beard


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