Sunday, 29 November 2015

Sara - the final tanda




Across a crowded tango floor.

She stands, slim, dark hair framing her face, animated mirada .

I look, she tilts her head. I approach. No word spoken.

We dance.


A first encounter - holding a partner in your arms - is a strange event for those unfamiliar with Argentine tango. We identify by feel; we move by shared energy; we slip further and seamlessly into a new place that will happen once; and then end. The close of the tanda is a frame of bereavement – the passing of a precious moment, to be lost in a mist of memory.

Sara is gone. Parting was long and tortuous, but still too fast and short. It leaves an ache in the heart of every tanguero that danced, and every tanguera that watched. We listen for a whistle across the pista to say that she, with Lloyd, will be here. We look for the glint across the room.



Sara’s last Facebook posting was a shared memory from our time in San Telmo, Buenos Aires, where she says that which is Sara, “We sat directly in front of four passionate, highly energetic and totally absorbed bandoneon players. I felt as if my whole body was electrified, especially when they played their final Pugliese track, La Yumba! The effects of the powerful live music felt indescribably healing”.

It now remains for us to absorb our loss, and to heal. Each will have their moment. A smile, a softness, a laugh, a breath. Perhaps you the reader and I the writer will meet on a tango floor. Perhaps mine will be the cabeceo and yours the animated mirada. Maybe we will approach without words. And perhaps we shall dance together our own private memories of a very special woman and friend.


With thanks to Lloyd Spencer for the wonderful photographs and other memories.
With our thoughts to Alex, and our appreciation of him as a devoted son to Sara.



Monday, 22 June 2015

C for Cumbria - D for Dalston - V for Victory


photo courtesy of Keith Shaw Buckley

The Smart roadster is humming. In spectacular sunshine, with long, clear views towards Great Ormside we slide effortlessly west along the A66 through Westmorland towards Cumberland.

Our destination today is the Sunday tango tea at Dalston, to the south of Carlisle, and east of little more than the Irish Sea. Last mentioned here in this blog in June 2012, we really needed to update our Dalston experience - to see whether we could recapture the delights of our visit three years ago.

It may be because Dalston lies west the M6 and east of the Solway coast - a stopping point for only deepest Cumbria or Dumfriesshire, that you have not heard of this place. Dalston unfolds around the village green, beyond which is situated the 1921 Victory Hall. Despite it's prettiness in the afternoon sun, it is hard to imagine other reasons to visit - save for tango, the enveloping Cumbrian welcome, and the prospect of a delicious tango tea.

We arrive almost simultaneously with Angie and Anna, with whom we had discussed our trip and pre-negotiated tandas. Kai leaps from the car, clearly keen for tango. We believe that Kai is one of a very small band of tango-loving dogs, so gaining his acquaintance is a privilege.

The strains of tango are not yet to be heard, but the hall is already filling with Cumbrians and those, like us, that have ventured from the other side of the Pennines. Our arrival is greeted with hugs. Here, it is as if we have arrived in the 49th bario of Buenos Aires. The first of Tim's sixteen tandas, De Angelis' Zorro Gris opens the milonga. This will be a tango journey that takes us through Manuel Buzon, D'Arienzo, Di Sarli, Calo, Canaro, OTV, Tanturi, Biagi, Pugliese, Firpo, Troilo, ending with the fabulous and lyrical Rodriguez - a Cumbrian smörgåsbord of Golden Age orchestras.

The Dalston tango tea is very much a traditional event, where cabeceo and mirada are encouraged (but not demanded), and where the courtesy of floorcraft is expected. This is a place for the mature dancer - not necessarily by age, nor by experience - but by approach and mindset. Beginners pepper the tables and are brought to the pista by experienced tangueros. The young are assisted on their tango journey by the old; mirroring the traditional milongas of Buenos Aires. Tango skills are highly evident, but as important is the 'milonga etiquette', making the Dalston tango tea a very special moment, however experienced or new to tango.

And then there is the tea! I have already been taken to task on Facebook for speaking of tea - and not of cake. Today, cake abounded, including for Stephanie,  preciously, Joanna's magnificent gluten-free chocolate cake. It is, of course, the summer solstice, approaching midsummer's day, so strawberries and raspberries dress the table. Quintessentially English, silhouetted against quintessentially Buenos Aires.

So, Dalston tango tea, ending with Rodrigues' 'Cafe', followed by Troilo's La Cumparasita was an unsurpassed delight. For those that want to step back to the Golden Age of both tango, and of tea - this is your place and destination.

We loved:

  • Tim's playlist, together with the printout left at each table;
  • The formal, traditional setting and atmosphere of milonga;
  • The warmth of reception, and inclusion of dancers;
  • The tea (including Argentine Maté) - and the cake (including English strawberries);
  • Everything!




Thursday, 19 March 2015

Interview with Stephanie Rose, tanguera



As an English barrister, I have spent a professional lifetime questioning people. However, here is a new dimension - my first interview here in Buenos Aires. Who better to choose for this attempt than the lovely tanguera Stephanie Rose, partner in tango, in Buenos Aires, and in life.

Stephanie, some readers will know you first hand, others through postings here, and countless tangueros through a tango embrace. Can we start with your tango journey? How did tango come about for you?

I have always loved to dance. As a child it was ballet; back when living in South Africa, I used to compete in Latin American dance - cha-cha, rumba, paso, samba and jive; and since then dance-exercise. It was whilst in South Africa that my best friend introduced me to Argentine tango. She invited me to an Argentine evening at which two old milongueros danced. It seemed so different from all of the dances I had known, but little did I realise then that later I would turn to tango as my main life interest. When we met in 2005, Argentine tango was the only appealing dance that was not already owned by either of us, and so that was the inevitable choice.

Who helped you most on your tango journey?

That is a really difficult question, for each teacher has played their part. My short introduction was with Tanya and Howard, two English tangueros, but soon after starting classes in 2007 I took my first visit to Buenos Aires. Here, Mariel Robles - then assistant director at DNI was pivotal. She instructed me how to breathe and to relax - probably two of the most overlooked aspects of learning dance. My most loved UK teachers are Miriam y Dante. They taught me back in England, and are inspirational. I believe that their future will be the most exciting in terms of both teaching and performing. Back here in Buenos Aires, Hector Corona y Silvina Machado are a perfect choice. Currently, Carolina Bonaventura at 'Mariposita' is providing my 'annual reconstruction'. She is awesome! Lita who works at Mariposita also provides huge support through her técnica class.

Have you taken classes with any of the famous names of tango?

I don't believe that Argentine tango is about famous names. Over 7 years I have taken classes with Pablo Veron, Geraldin Rojas, Miriam Larici y Leonardo Barrionuevo, Daniela Pucci y Luis Bianchi, Murat y Michelle, Michelle y Joachim, Oscar Casas and others. They have all been impressive, but for me tango is really experienced on the floor of a milonga, preferably here in Buenos Aires.

What for you is the most important aspect of tango?

The music. It is the key to every dance, but never more-so than in Argentine tango. I listen to tango music at every opportunity, I do housework to tango, I relax to tango; and have learned to identify the orchestras by their unique style and composition. For me, tango is really that of the 'Golden Age' - from the 1920's to the 1950's. Yes, it is a small window, but one full of fabulous music played by some of the most experienced musicians of the time. To play in the orchestras of D'Arienzo or Demare players needed to be at the top of their game in a tight market of instrumentalists. The old orchestras played seamlessly together - they probably performed every night of the week so they would know their fellow players as well, if not better, than their families.

After the music is, of course, the embrace, and as someone who has danced all my life, the expression of the music through movement.

What do you look for in a leader?

Musicality - of course! Like most followers, I am not impressed by the catalogue of steps that a leader may have acquired in classes, but am totally drawn in by his musicality. I love a leader who experiences the music, and shares this through his lead; who plays with the music and who creates surprises and challenges. They say that 'tango is a feeling that is danced'. The feeling should contain the unexpected, so long as it is faithful and true to the music. I would love it that leaders learned this lesson at the outset. Followers don't generally want a leader who competes with other leaders, and certainly not one who competes for attention with his partner. We want sensitivity, expression, generosity and the safe opportunity to dance.

You make regular visits to Buenos Aires. Why do you keep coming back?

There is something totally special about dancing here in Buenos Aires. It has a different quality from Europe and the USA. I don't get to dance with the most expert tangueros here (except for Oscar Casas), but some tandas - especially those with experienced milongueros - are sublime. Perhaps it is something in the culture; or maybe that they have simply 'lived' tango - something that you observed in one of your blogs. When a milonguero whispers the name of the orchestra in your ear, takes you into close embrace and leads you effortlessly in a tanda, you realise that you have arrived with tango.

Where next for you with tango?

I would love to continue to improve my technique; especially to work on my connection with the floor and my partner. Carolina has been inspriational in this regard, reminding me of some of the most essential aspects of tango and dance that get overlooked. When I dance, she spots the precise moment that my foot touches the floor, how I make the step and where my balance is at each moment. It is hard work, but then - that is tango for you!

Will you still be dancing tango in 10 years?

I have been watching some of the more mature tangueras (as well as the older flamenco dancers - another dance passion of mine) and love what they do. In fact, dancers are like good wine. If they have well-constructed technique, and continue the discipline of practice and learning, they simply mature - developing an unassailable complexity that cannot be replicated by the young. It is a special quality. That is where I propose to be, if I can. But I hope you are not suggesting that I will be too old to dance tango!

What advice would you give to beginner followers, and those at the start of their tango journey?

Unlike many other dances, Argentine tango requires a high level of commitment and application. If all that you want to do is to get round the floor with a regular partner at a social dance in Europe, that is one thing. But if you want to receive everything that tango can deliver, it is necessary to develop a softness, accessiblity and responsive to the lead and to the music. Get to the milongas and watch some of the best tango partnerships - find someone who you really admire - and dedicate yourself to learning exactly how they respond to each other. At the risk of repeating myself, listen to the music. Bear in mind that, for you, every tanda is a new start; and stay positive about your dance.


This interview took place in Buenos Aires in March 2015 - at Peru 735 and Café Rivas, Balcarce, San Telmo.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Freddy's for lunch



On the eve of a birthday trip with Miles to The New Brighton - rated twelfth in TripAdvisor's top restaurants here in Buenos Aires, is it strange to blog about Freddy's?

Saturday afternoon; Stephanie and I walk the length of Bolivar to the mercado, turning left to Carlos Calvo 471. There, nestling under the side of the market, is Nuestra Parilla (otherwise known after it's owner as 'Lo de Freddy').

For this special gastronomic experience it is necessary to be unconditionally hungry and dressed down for street food. Freddy's is not a restaurant, but simply a small incision in the market wall containing six high stools, a shelf, and some of the best cooked beef, pork steaks, and pork sausages in the capital.

Our options, with prices from 25 to 60 pesos, were choripán - chorizo sausage sandwich, morcipán - blood sausage sandwich, bondiola - pork shoulder, or matambre - beef flank steak. We chose the latter, wrapped in crusty white bread, covered in red chimichurri or green garlic and onion sauce, and washed down with a litre of pale Palermo - a light Argentine beer.

Sitting at the shelf with our perfectly cooked hunks of meat, it is easy to see why the word 'matambre' derives from the words 'kill hunger'. To our side, the wall is covered with slips of paper, 'postits' and signed photographs of visitors and patrons. It seems that the whole of the national football team have eaten here at some stage. Each message tells the story of a sated moment of complete satisfaction. Accompanying the food is the floor show, with portenos arriving, departing and simply calling by to chat with Freddy. Outside, a group of San Telmo children play with a market kitten, and an old Ford Falchon rumbles past on the paving sets. 

So, should you find yourself at that point of hunger that requires urgent support - forget the restaurants: make for Freddy's, and enjoy one of Buenos Aires' most evocative gastronomic moments.

Monday, 9 March 2015

How to dance and how not to dance Argentine tango

If you have not already tried to dance Argentine tango, you are probably reading this to get some tips. If you consider yourself a tanguero, you will be here most likely to examine the audacity of a writer and 'some-time dancer' to opine on the subject of tango.

Argentine tango was once the preserve of those few porteños that kept the dance alive through nearly three decades of challenge - when dancing tango was difficult to sustain here in Buenos Aires, and elsewhere neglected. The 'Golden Age' had been and gone, and tango awaited a new injection of artistic energy.

Now, teachers from Buenos Aires have been joined by those in the provinces, and flood across North America, Europe, the Far East, the former Soviet Union and up into China. Each teacher has spawned their own family of dancers and teachers, and tango has become 'world property'. Visit every city in Europe, and most towns, and you will find a tanguero or two dancing some derivative of tango.

So, what is the point of this blog?

Returning as I have for my fifth visit to Buenos Aires, involving over fifteen months of life here, I am still no tango expert - more of a keen observer where aspiration exceeds ability. But I have come to realise one important point: to understand the real implications of tango, you need to experience it here.

The actual mechanism of experience is less important than the fact. Whether with a handful of ancient milongueros at El Arranque on a Tuesday afternoon, or amongst the beautiful and magnificent at De Querusa Practica or Zum at Club Malcolm - the experience informs you about a feeling, one rarely recreated elsewhere.

Here, I am not focussing on that moment of connection experienced by the fortunate and able during a milonga. Nor do I include the point when what has been taught comes seamlessly together within a tanda. For me, the feeling arrives from being amongst those that are not first generation tangueros, who have grown up with the language and music of tango, and in whose soul it has 'genetically' lodged.

Buenos Aires tangueros do not, by any means, deliver the best of tango method. Look carefully at the technique and lightening responses of some of the world's professionals, and you will see technical and aesthetic brilliance. But here, tango represents simply a dance that people dance, and through which they express over a century of collective experience. Tango is certainly different from cooking or football - yes it can be exported, but it owes an essential part of its character to the bario from whence it came, in which it grew, and to the milongueros that danced it.

Young tangueros here in Buenos Aires understand this only too well. Picture the milonga glistening with youth and talent - where technique and energy combine. Enter then, a pair of ancient milongueros that take to the floor to exhibit. A silence falls, and the most talented of the best watches with hunger. It is because they, like us, know that they are to experience a part of their history that will inform their present.

So, how to dance - and how not to dance tango? For that, you will simply have to tell the boss that you are away for at least a month, buy the flight, book the tango hostel or apartment, and come. Until you do so, and feel the spirit of tango in Buenos Aires, this posting will remain an intractable mystery, and you will be missing out on a fundamental point of connection of true Argentine tango.



To learn from the milongueros' favourite tanguera, 'La flaca Lucia': "She lives and feels the moment" - Pocho y Alito at 6.15 time elapsed; go to https://www.facebook.com/pages/Clases-de-Tango-Lucia-Gerry/103539149705177

Sunday, 8 March 2015

San Telmo Sunday

Sunday in Buenos Aires is a most relaxing day. Traffic halves - and slows from a gallop to a trot, particularly the taxis that coast at walking pace looking for fares. Avenida Independencia is almost deserted. Gone are the trucks and deliveries, the pick-up and drop-offs, the honking horns, the blaring radios. Even the colectivos have a relative calm as they slide the calles without racing the lights.

Defensa is closed to vehicles; and is now a sea of humanity - the traders and performers, the ice cream and empanada vendors. On one side hand made jewellery and leather goods are spread out on bright cloths their makers sat on kerbs, low stools or haunches; on the other, the table stalls with deep awnings for shade. Here is every variety of tourist, from North America, Europe, China, Japan and of course the other states of the south. Occasionally, an English voice will penetrate the hubub and we will discretely look away.

Today is the day for a specific search. I descend the calle from Plaza Dorrego, leaving behind the ancient tango performers who have danced together on the same worn piece of hardboard at the same corner for two generations. Their mature daughter joins them now to support and share the performance burden, but the death of just one parent will mean the demise of this particular tradition. The antique stalls give way to tables of scarves, bags, incense burners, carved wooden figures; and to the street performers.

Just beyond Dorrego a slight Porteno in his early 50's breathes life into a wooden puppet which collapses drunkenly against a miniature lamp post. Further, the 'Spirit of Carlos Gardel' stands on a crate to sing. He, like many of the performers, has been at this same spot for decades, his grey hair contrasting with the black brylcreem of a creased Gardel poster.

I pause to greet Alvero, who makes and decorates didgeridoos with Inca patterns and animal designs. He smiles widely and greets me in Castellano. I am yet to see him make a sale, but he always exudes joy and energy. I want to shout to the crowd "Buy a didgeridoo from my friend" until I remember that, for some reason, I too am yet to buy one.

It is after midday and the sun is intense. Passers-by strive for the shaded areas of pavement, others move leisurely between the canopies over the stalls. The older traders display deep indented lines on their dark tanned faces and hands - a sign of their time on the street. To my right now is the parking yard, in weekdays full of cars, but today full of diners sat at small tables eating beef from the parilla. Towards the rear, a band of musiciens folklorique play a zamba.

In Defensa you are never far away from tango - a song, a dance, an apron embellished with the word, the playing of a CD from an open doorway. Later, at Plaza Dorrego, the square will be transformed into an open air milonga, the dancers treading carefully across lose-taped matting to a slow tango or vals.

I slip unnoticed from Defensa turning to my left and into Bolivar, joining again the slow passage of two taxis and a motorcycle. Here, a porteno shakes a mat from a balcony, a dog barks, and a roller shutter grinds to a close. Two young lovers sit on a step, their eyes glued together oblivious of my passing. Ahead, the lights change to green and the rush returns for a just a moment - but like a breath, to be followed by a San Telmo Sunday pause.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Explosive Sunday

It is Sunday 1 March here in the centre of Buenos Aires. The clock crept past nine am with the first explosion.

Some appear near - perhaps Avenida 9 Julio - others more distant, high into the city. The force is such as to set car alarms ringing across the bario. The little court yard garden oasis below the apartment quakes, and palm leaves rattle with a sudden surge of air. Our humming birds have taken fright; their scarlet flowers nod and wait.

From deep in San Telmo, it is not possible to see the full context, but this is the day designated for the Presidential counter-demonstration. Whilst last month's silent walk for Nisman had been a massively popular and dignified affair, with Portenos taking spontaneously to the streets, this is altogether different. Here, none of the mature groups, the families and the old. In their place those, incentivised by expectation, brought to the capital federal in government-funded coaches. The contrived degree of organisation presents a political chimera. Where else, but Buenos Aires, would determined choreography of government-support, present anything but pathos?

The explosions continue, and do not seem to recede. Nearby, a baby cries and now more distant cracks and explosions make a previously sleeping city jerk into a political wakefulness.

Yesterday, Portenos on the street spoke of much resentment towards government policies, especially those of the President's initiative. Argentine Pope Francis is criticised as failing to speak out, suggesting that the current government stay its term. His words, no doubt wisely wishing to avoid the instability of political revolution, are seen by the people as an affirmative nod to current political interests.

Today, their views are confirmed, rather than dispelled. The huge firecrackers, the size of small buckets, like a circus elephant, cynically draw attention, but not real support.

On 9 de Julio, the tired and unemployed spill from hot buses into the bright sunshine. Some of them have been brought 300 kilometres from Rosario at dawn and are so exhausted that they rest against the concrete walls. Banners are unfurled, and thin burgers and slices of water melon are handed out to the hungry - the offer of free food having been used as a further incentive to many who have nothing.

Television footage in the nearby café shows the President speaking dramatically to Congress from the presidential chair. She denies complicity in the killing. She contends that support for her is rising, based on the value of bonds - for which it appears the English courts have jurisdiction.

A short flash of rain means retreat back to the safety of the apartment, leaving the political stage to others. What is clear, is that nothing is quite as clear as it seems.

Argentina Independent 3 March 
http://www.argentinaindependent.com/currentaffairs/time-to-take-interpol-out-of-the-amia-bombing-saga/

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Los Laureles



Barbara announces that she, Amber, Mercedes together with other friends will be going to Los Laureles to dine and to dance.

Los Laureles is deep in bario Barracas, so deep that it almost kisses the Riachuelo, the river that feeds the old port of La Boca; so far that it drops off my map of Buenos Aires. Omni Lineas tells me that colectivo 24, 45 or 70 will take us from San Telmo to Avenida General Iriarte 2290, and so we steer up Chile, avoiding the carnival revellers, to Avenida 9 Julio to catch the bus.

Save for a detour to Av Regiamento de Patricios, colectivo 70 races through La Boca towards Barracus and, twenty minutes later, we decamp almost at the door of Los Laureles.

Few old bars of this character remain in the bario - here since the 1890's, formerly a general store with a tap room, but since its early years as the hot-bed of political intrigue. From the 1920's to 1940's Los Laureles became a tango bar of distinction due to the presence of José Angel Lomio - the tango tenor known as Angel Vargas. He was shortly to join Angel D'Agostino, leader of one of the great tango orchestras.  Enrique Cadícamo, tango lyricist  and tango composer Juan Carlos Cobian also frequented the bar. It now retains the mantle of one of the best known tango bars in the Capital Federal.

We choose to enter through the side door which leads directly to the packed dining area, a busy bar running to our right. Along the far wall are rows of chalk boards showing tonight's specials. Further over are photos reflecting the bar's history. Towards the street side is the tango floor, the band perched in the corner - violin, bass, piano and bandoneon. Dancers circle the small tight floor, in close embrace, without the gender divide of leading and following. Here a young athletic youth is led by his tall female partner, towards the back of the floor two men exchange leads. Mercedes is already on the dance floor showing her virtuosity as she leads a young woman into an ocho.

We join the diners at one of the tables scattered around the tiny pista. Dressed with heavy, white linen cloths, each is covered with dishes and glasses, the favoured tables nestling close to the dance floor. Waiters rush conspicuously delivering pizza and other light meals.

Tonight we are not eating - simply dancing. We leave glasses of chilled white wine and slip gently into the pista. The violin and bandoneon tease each other with contra-rhythms as we close our embrace. You sense the history of Los Laureles seeming into dance - with moments of astute character followed by fragments of silence. Only the voice of Angel Vargas is missing.

Between tandas we return to the table to chat, cabeceo and taste the crisp Argentine Chardonnay. The evening becomes suffused with the fragrance of timelessness - like the slow moving sepia images of dancers projected to the screen.

Following the short performance by dancers making a neat professional debut, we leave the bar. Outside, the midnight air is fresh and we await the colectivo which arrives in a late-night hurry of screaming gears and rattling coachwork. A breeze through the open window refreshes. Soon, we cross Av San Juan and enter 9 de Julio, telling us that this special journey is over, and another delicious night of tango slips into memory.





Saturday, 21 February 2015

De Querusa



Sitting at the entrance desk playing guitar, Luciano greets us with a wide smile. This is our first visit to 'De Querusa Practica'.

Organised by Andres 'tanguito' Cejas, Noelia Coletti and Pablo Giorgini this has to be one of the smartest places to dance Argentine tango in Buenos Aires - not for the venue, but for the tangueros. This is a place for the beautiful and the competent.

Taking colectivo 126 from Bolivar/Independencia, San Telmo, a rapid, rattling journey of just over 20 minutes brings you to Carlos Calvo 3745. The doorway is within metres of the bus stop, leading straight from the street to an open reception area. Behind, the sound of tango and Tanguito's encouraging tones as the initial lesson comes to an end. Luciano looks up, offers a big hug and welcomes us to the practica.

The well lit salon is large and long, lined by small tables; with a huge seating area towards the rear of the room - leading to a café bar from which pizzas and empanadas are already being carried by hungry dancers. A dozen couples remain on the pista, developing their recently acquired or practised steps, each one showing the gorgeousness that is Buenos Aires in what they do, how they do it, and fascinatingly, how beautiful they look.

Luise, Stephanie and I take seats near the door to change our shoes. Now is a moment to take in the essence of De Querusa Practica. The average age here is youthful - 20-40, but with a sprinkling of mature tangueros of distinction, or those that retain the quick confidence to partner the young and energetic. The old milongueros seen at other milongas are replaced by rows of attractive men and women. The DJ sits on a low stage above the pista, and below him the tangueras, like a chocolate box of treats.

It is early in the evening and the floor is relatively clear, with space to walk and to dance. Luise accepts my cabeceo and we slip silently into the ronda. Embrace is close and each move is accompanied by a breath and the gentle intimacy that is tango. Around us, other tangueros dance using space intelligently and with respect. Those entering the pista check for the moment and await an acknowledgement to join the ronda.

Nearly four hours slip by in a trice, with elegance and joy. Relieved from his door-keeping duties, Luciano arrives to invite Stephanie to dance a tanda. The stage-side line of tangueras look on longingly as Luciano strides out, and another dream is made.

The bus to return home screeches to a stop, and we board clutching our tango shoes. We race along Av San Juan. After the elegance of De Querusa, the lines of boarding late-night revellers seem dull. And so we are whisked back into the reality of real time, towards the bario of San Telmo.


Thursday, 19 February 2015

Walk in the Rain



Wednesday 18 February - Avenida Callao - it is starting to rain.

I have just left Cuatro Corazones at Callao 257 3A clutching new tango clothes, and exited from the marble hall through glass doors into an overcast street. Ahead, passing in waves and streams, walk porteños - families with small children, elderly couples, teenagers and individuals - some chatting together with animation; others silently - as if caught in pensive, reflective moments of time.

I am witnessing the early stage of the silent protest to remember Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor who died of a single bullet to the head just hours before he was to give evidence to inculpate the President in a political cover-up, shielding Iranian officials from the AMIA Jewish-Argentine charity federation bombing.

The tides of porteños become blocks of silent, walking humanity, and the first few drops of rain catch my arm. I dart for the cover of overhanging eves and one of the avenida's few trees just as the droplets become a downpour, and streams of water gush along the deep concrete drains. In an instant, the scene becomes a moving sea of umbrellas - a complex design of circles and octagons of all colours, between which flutter the blue and white of Argentine flags.

What is so remarkable about the scene is the maturity of the crowd. Here stands a tall, middle aged doctor from Belgrano, his navy blazer contrasting with sharp-creased cream trousers, his hand-made shoes soaking up the rivulets of rain. Nearby, a family group of a dozen shelter under six umbrellas, their raincoats flapping in the warm breeze. Only the street dwellers and those that care not about governments are missing. Otherwise, we have the whole spread of Argentine society standing silently together for one cause.

The crowd moves forwards. The rain now is so intense that the presence of an umbrella is quite academic - for the cover provided ignores the fact that streams of rain are pouring from those alongside.

My tango purchases seem now an irrelevance. The moment arrives when you give into the rain - allowing it to wash the tears of Nisman.

http://www.argentinaindependent.com/currentaffairs/nisman-is-everyone-nisman-was-no-one/

Friday, 13 February 2015

Arrival in Buenos Aires

Perfect blue skies, and sunshine, a copper butterfly weaves past to the shade of the vine that plaits the garden wall. Nearby, a clatter of Sunday lunch plates.  Further, bird song and the occasional screech of a flight of parrots, and more distant, a drum foretelling the start of carnival.

Yes, it is now four days since arrival in Buenos Aires. Taking the direct, overnight flight with British Airways, we touched down shortly after 10 am on Wednesday, passed slowly through the eight congested immigration booths, out into the bright light of Ezeiza airport and onward by Manuel Tienda Leon coach to the Capital Federal.

On Calle Peru, San Telmo, Carolina's apartment rented for the next 9 weeks, sits at the rear of the house. The entrance way to the historic building is grand and opulent, floodlit for effect at night. Tall dark oak doors lead by chestnut marble steps to a pale marble outer salon and thence to the courtyard enclosed garden via rich stained glass doors. Beyond, the tap-tap of an old clerk typing at a 1970's electric typewriter.

From the garden, the way to the apartment is by a turned flight of twenty two steps bordered by exotic plants. Here, then, is the balcony overlooking the garden. Through period double doors - a bright 'loft within a loft', the sleeping area gained by a spiral staircase spans the light and airy living space. It was described as a haven, and it most certainly is.

For those unfamiliar with Buenos Aires, San Telmo is the oldest part of the city - bohemian, artistic, culture-rich bario, comprising a close-nit grid of narrow streets separated by the grander tree-lined avenidas. It is here that tourists and the Portenos co-exist side-by-side, apartment by apartment, producing a rich mix of energy and colour. After 15 months in Buenos Aires, I feel possessive and safe in San Telmo. Of course, safety is an illusion in a city where inflation racks the price of bread each week.

But for the moment, arrival is as sweet as the air of Buenos Aires is fresh.



Monday, 12 January 2015

Buenos Aires 2015

Thanks to BuenosAires.travel for the photo - tango in Plaza Dorrego


It has been a while, dear reader, since December 2013 when I last posted from Buenos Aires.

All that is to change, with an impending trip in February through to April - leaving my home in England in the tender care of family for 9 weeks. Here, I propose to swap the cold, wet, windy and perhaps snowy north for late summer into autumn sunshine in Argentina.

To be more specific, San Telmo - yet again. One of the most exciting barios in Buenos Aires, San Telmo offers a bohemian history, traditional and modern culture, a village pattern of old streets, the city's best markets, and of course, tango.

So, what better place to start?

Postings from Peru 735 Capital Federal will appear from the second week in February. And for those who have Facebook accounts, you may follow our day-to-day progress on San Telmo Fabrizio. Feel free to join the group.