Archive for 28/10/2014

Municipal Dreams

Between the wars, Conservative-controlled Birmingham built over 51,000 new council homes – more than any other local authority in the country outside London.  When Neville Chamberlain, a former city councillor and now Edgbaston MP, opened the city’s 40,000th council home in 1933 he spoke with much local pride and only a little exaggeration of:(1)

an achievement on the part of Birmingham which has no parallel in this or any other country

While Chamberlain might seem the quintessential interwar Conservative, his name and local heritage stood for something more.  Before his father Joseph Chamberlain, a dominating figure both as local councillor and MP, became a Unionist, he was a radical.  His influence, that mix, remained powerful in Birmingham.  Neville, his more pallid son, represented some of its good intent and many of its contradictions.

The Birmingham Gazette article marking Chamberlain's formal opening of the city's 40,000 th council home in February 1933 The Birmingham Gazette article marking Chamberlain’s formal opening of the city’s 40,000th council home, October 1933


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A panorama of the Cortijo where we stayed

A panorama of the Cortijo where we stayed

Over our week in Andalucia, we visited the nearby town of Archidona a few times (it had a rather good supermarket). But one day we took our time…

Archidona lies in the foothills of the Sierra de Gracia. describes the town:

‘… Bordering on the Granada Province, Archidona sits at the very centre of Andalucia, 660 metres above sea level. This rural community dominates the valley over which it presides……

The municipality covers an area of approximately 187 kilometres and has a population of around 10,000. Although, as with many Andalucian villages in the 1970’s, there was a grand exit from the countryside and into the larger cities, Archidona is once again a thriving little town, whose economy still depends to a large extent on the olive groves that surround the area, which yield a very high quality of olive oil…

Although Archidona has grown from a tiny village into a small town, many of today’s inhabitants still remember the days when they played marbles and hopscotch in the narrow streets. In the area knows as “Los Caños de las Monjas“, older residents in Archidona reminisce about gathering together in the hope of finding work in the olive groves, being paid at the rate of 15 pesetas a day. Woman took their washing to “Los Caños” – the public wash place. In those days, if a widow or widower remarried, the young people of the village would stand outside the house of the newly weds and make a dreadful din, often resulting in the groom chasing them down the road, firing rifle shots in the air to scare them off. Things have changed in Archidona and there is more modern housing and good facilities, but the general layout and structure of the town has remained largely unchanged…’

We made for the centrepiece of Archidona, it’s octagonal square, where we ended up having a superb lunch after looking a little further afield, including up to the mountain top church and monastery which overlooks the town…


Well, that just about sums up our week in central Andalucia, apart, of course from the actual place we stayed, alongside our welcoming and helpful hosts, Michael and Lisa. So, to round things off, here are a few pictures of the Cortijo which was a beautiful house in a wonderful setting, where I especially liked picking fresh figs and eating newly harvested almonds. It was also a joy to lie in a hammock- something I haven’t done for a long time and which felt almost foetal in its gentle two-way sway and tight wrapping…oh, and I mustn’t forget the warm red wine which we sampled, and sampled, and sampled…

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