The journey described in "Misadventures with a Donkey in Spain" (1924) by Jan and Cora Gordon began with a search for a donkey to pull a cart containing their art materials. By the end of the journey they had "left a trail of 500 kilometres of perplexity across the provinces of Murcia, Almeria, Granada, and Malaga .."
In the summer of 2009 we followed in the footsteps of Cora, Jan and Colonel Geraldine the donkey (the story can be found here). We stayed in Vera, where an ancient and unusual guitar owned by the Gordons had been made in 1854 (more on the guitars can be found here and here). The grandson of Jan Gordon's godson can be seen studying a modern guitar in a Vera shop window here.
"Una ventana al pasado", Murcian donkey fair, reproduced in Vera al Dia, 18 Julio 2009.
During our stay in Vera we visited a temporary exhibition (in the Convento de la Victoria) of ancient photographs and found one evocative connection with the Gordons' Spanish journey. It shows a donkey fair of the 1920s, with three donkey carts visible, including a covered one very like that used by the Gordons. A group of panniers can be seen in the foreground and a good number of donkeys are available for inspection.
Many adventures later, arriving in Malaga at the end of their journey, the Gordons struggled to sell Colonel Geraldine and the cart; "It would have been easy to dispose of the donkey alone; several persons offered us the same price that we had paid for it .. but the cart was unwanted. It was not a Malagan cart, but a Murcian model."
Eventually "another gypsy was found, who offered us thirty-five duros, and we were now so tired of the business that the poor little Colonel was handed over to a group of very delighted speculators. We gave him a large feed of alfalfa grass, and as a last treat a whole orange. His days of splendour were over" and "Jo turned away to hide a tear."
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On a quiet Sunday afternoon, rereading Jan Gordon 's " GRADUS AD ... MONTPARNASSUM " (Blackwood's, March 1929, under his "Salis" pseudonym) I wondered who the character known only as "K" might be. The text states that, "K --- has since climbed to eminence, the button of the legion of honour, the front page of a great daily, poems in profusion, and a number of plays; but in those days he clung to a paper which hung on the edge of bankruptcy, and was the author of one slim book of verse in praise of opium dreams, a long way after Baudelaire." "K" chose Jan and Cora Gordon to exhibit their work at the art gallery of a fashionable photographer he "had been of service to", referred to in the text as "M". The show "was noticed favourably" and Cora sold (to a diplomat, perhaps Paul Morand ) "a big exuberant drawing in colour of the Cleopatra-cum-anachronism period." Jan Gordon was not