Wallflowers and Stephen Fry!
When I was contacted by RTVE, National Spanish TV, to do a documentary on my life for their programme, Destino España, the natural wallflower in me was nowhere to be found! (See the video on the menu bar). Illusions of grandeur had been sown a year ago when I had a near miss with Stephen Fry and a BBC documentary. The BBC had contacted me to help with the Basque part of their recent TV documentary on languages and, after much effort (and personal favours) galvanising my neighbours in Ituren into action – joaldunak, bertzolaris and smugglers alike – the BBC dropped the idea in favour of a free booze up at Arzak (the number one Michelin restaurant of San Sebastian). As for Basque culture, that would have to be it!
The excuse was that they didn’t think that they would be in a fit state to drive up into the mountains afterwards!
Now Spanish TV were giving me another stab at fame, and I didn’t batter an eyelid. Fluttering was more like it … or is that eyelashes? (One of the first things that happens to you after living abroad for so long is that your idioms start heading ‘down’ the creek). I was excited.Marionhad her doubts (what was mummy getting her into THIS time) but when I pointed out that it meant a day off school then her doubts joined rank with my wallflowers.
And so the big day drew near. The night before we dashed over to visit Amaya (Sagrario’s daughter on the neighbouring farm) for a bit of beautifying in her tiny hairdressing salon (once the milking parlour for the Friesians before milk prices dropped and they changed over to Pirenaicas). Eyebrows were plucked, hair cut and eye shadow applied (much to Marion’s delight) and we giggled our way home along the track whiffing of perfume with a subtle under note of cow poo.
The following morning there was no time for Amaya, but no worries there,Marionappeared from the shadows with gunging cotton buds of lilacs, pinks and blues. After a few wet wipes later I dashed off to Santesteban to meet Gada, the interviewer, a bright, bubbly young girl in her late 20’s and Pep, a serious and well-travelled cameraman from Valencia. A fascinating day was then spent watching two superb professionals at work. Gada would question me from time to time giving me leads on what to say, while Pep took shots from all angles, calculating the light, the shadows, the reflections, and working meticulously time and time again on the details of the mill, the fish, the clothes and the landscapes of Ameztia.
Thanks to Felipe, Juanjo and Isidro everything flowed; everything except the spontaneous tickling of the trout which ended up being a little less spontaneous that it should have been. After hysterical moments of slippery and decidedly unticklish trout somersaulting from rock pool to rock pool trout, Felipe decided to dam up part of the stream so they were easier to find!
Marion and I had a fun day. It was fascinating to see two real professionals at work and get to appreciate just how much hard work and meticulous attention to detail went into a final 10 minute film.
Personal glory aside, there were two far more important reasons for my wanting to take part in this documentary. The first was to give more exposure to this breath-takingly beautiful part of the Spanish Pyrenees with idyllic mediaeval farming landscapes and ancient Basque traditions. It is an absolute gem of an area which, due to political reasons, has been starved of budgets to promote itself: dedicated millers, artisans, artists and Michelin-recommended restaurants all struggle to scratch out a living as travellers simply don’t know that this area exists. To this end we have taken steps ourselves to develop a series of Baztan Valley walking holidays to help encourage low-impact tourism in the area.
The other objective was to document my great appreciation of my wonderful neighbours of Ituren and Ameztia who have helped me bringMarionup. Vanity, be assured, had nothing to do with it! : -)
See the documentary here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMSPk3jrO4M