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."
Popular posts from this blog
Jan and Cora Gordon visited Albania in the summer of 1925 and in 1927 published the book " Two Vagabonds in Albania ." Two phrases from this book resonated when I first read it: " Now and again a wolf howled from far away, and somewhere a kid, lost or smelling some wolf-taint in the air, bleated with persistent terror " pg. 138. and " As we came down into the cultivated fields of the valley we found ourselves walking through clouds of red-winged grasshoppers, which sprang up on all sides with a clattering flight ." pg. 139 The book begins with "Don't stay in Durazzo." From Durazzo they made a clockwise loop to the south, passing through Tirana, Elbasan, Berat, Kelcyre, Permeti and Gjinokastro before returning north to Tirana. The second leg of the journey was an excursion to the north, from Scutari up into the mountains. Map of prominent places visited on the southern loop described in "Two Vagabonds in Albania"
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 c
During the second of the Paris art shows described in Jan Gordon's "GRADUS AD ... MONTPARNASSUM" (Blackwood's, March 1929, under his "Salis" pseudonym) a lady poetess "swore that De M---, the great French actor, must see Claribel's [Cora Gordon's] drawings. But, alas! De M--- was in bed." The poetess took Cora in a cab to see the actor, along with the more exotic and esoteric of her drawings (according to Jan Gordon, Cora's designs were "mostly of semi-nude dancers making arabesques of themselves to a counter rhythm of draperies and cats.") Left in an antechamber, she found herself "in the midst of a weird collection", every piece in the crowded assemblage "picked for some sinister or erotic quality." "At intervals a creaking voice uttered French words of considerable impropriety" - this was a parrot. Behind a curtain was a bathroom in which the bath was scooped in the black marble floor. &qu