All posts, On leaving home

Incense, in tents and Pink Floyd

Joss stickIn the fug and sometime stress of modern life, there’s a moment that we remember fondly. As children, Dad helped us put up a tent in the garden where we stayed out the night, perhaps two. Not banished – just enjoying a bit of freedom, albeit just metres from the safety of home.

It was a hot summer night. A bottle of milk in a bowl of cold water, ready for breakfast.

A friend had lent us a record he’d not heard before, even though it was already two or three years old. It was called: The Dark Side of the Moon. (Two decades later we were to live one road away from the family home of the singer – Clare Torry – on the sublime ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’.)

Taped, we listened to it in the tent that night. And it was about the time joss sticks made an appearance – the swirling smoke demons that would torment our coughing Mum as we turned our bombsite bedrooms into Far Eastern temples.

The smell of joss sticks – and cowpats – bring back the 18 months we spent in India, where huge bundles could be bought for next to nothing in the markets of Delhi.

Fast forward a few decades and here we are in Órgiva, Spain. Listening to Pink Floyd and burning joss sticks (but no cows in sight).

Joss stick selection

Smoke gets in your eyes

We don’t meditate, we’re not part of a sect or have any religious or spiritual beliefs – and don’t pretend we’re hippies (although tell that to our 16 year-old selves) – despite being in an area well known for its alternative lifestyle. No, they smell lovely and help keep the mosquitos away.

To do exhaustive research on every type available here would take years, but we have found some lovely ones.

There are plenty of shops that sell them. At Thursday’s outdoor market there’s a man who has a beautiful selection of handmade sticks from India (where he lives). Different coloured packets like sweets in wrappers – some with just five in. As we get through a lot of them, we stick to established brands.

Our favourites are Nag Champa ‘Goloka’ and ‘Satya Sai Baba‘. Imagine: 18th century books that haven’t seen the light of day since the 19th; a worm-eaten Victorian wooden picture frame; bark from a dead tree; a damp cellar. Forget jasmine, opium, rose et al – these are special. [Update: 2014 – Woods are brilliant!]

Filmed in Órgiva, July 2013 – forty years on. Home, home again…

Related posts:

Music we listened to in 2013

Goodbye, Paco de Lucía

Órgiva market

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All about Granada, Órgiva, La Alpujarras, Las Alpujarras, Andalucia, Spain – tapas, history, local guides and more.


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