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The Quijote in my life

1st prize Category 7-11 y. o.

My Don Quijote is my Grandad Fred. He was born in 1939 in Liverpool, just before World War II started. His dad was also called Fred and was the 7th son of a 7th son.  This was supposed to be lucky but he was miserable and angry.  To avoid him, Fred and his dog called Rinty used to have lots of adventures down at Dam woods; they caught rabbits for his mum to cook for tea. He had good imagination; for example, he pretended his name was Frederick Harvey Winstanley Norman however his wife, two Daughters and Son believed this for 20 long years, even though his name was Frederick Norman.

When he was 10, people started cutting down Dam woods to build Liverpool Airport. He saw the airplanes landing and he imagined what it was like to live in a different country. When he exclaimed to his friends that he wanted to travel and live in sunny countries, they rudely pointed out, ‘You’re not brave enough.  Why do you want to do that? That’s rubbish.’ But Fred still wanted to live his dream and he believed in himself.

My Grandad has a quest for adventure; at the age of 15, he joined the Merchant Navy.  Where he travelled around the world!  He saw: sunny blue skies, deserts and smelled the salty sea; he wanted to feel the warm weather and taste different foods and spices. 

One day he went on a boat from Liverpool to take goods to India, the quickest way was to sail through the Suez Canal. However, at that time, there was a war called the Suez crisis – he was on this canal when they shut the gates tight. He wondered if a bomb might hit his boat and explode the Canal.  He was stuck there for several weeks!  He was only 16.

My Grandad went to Brazil and Argentina, where after drinking beer at the port, he missed his ship and spent two days with no sleep and no food, chasing it to another port, miles up the river Plate.  The Captain fined him two weeks pay.  He travelled to the Caribbean, India and North America, where he bought Elvis Presley records before he was even heard of in England! 

Grandad wore suits he had made very cheaply in Singapore. He was wearing one when he met Grandma, when he was back in Liverpool.  My Grandma’s step-mum thought that my Grandad was a trouble maker because he wore a red tie and fancy suits.  She married him anyway.  Now my Grandad and Grandma live in Spain.  Grandma is like Grandad’s Sancho Panza.

When we visit them in Spain, we get caught up in Grandad’s adventures.  He always gets lost; we once drove to a restaurant which was supposed to be 5 miles away; we took one of Grandad’s “shortcuts” and 30 miles later we finally arrived!  

I think, like Don Quijote and my Grandad, you should be brave and live your dream.

My Grandad encouraged his family to travel; my mum has lived and worked in Saudi Arabia and has visited many countries.  My Grandad is still living his dream; he won’t wake up as Alonso Quijana like poor Don Quijote.

Alex V.
Park Road Community Primary School

«Travels in Portugal… and Spain» by H. F. Link

Following his interest in botany, entomology and ornithology, Henry Frederick Link visited Spain with the Count of Hoffmannfegg, in 1798. The origin of this journey was initially to do a research focused in Portugal, as Link himself underlines in the introduction of the book “to collect materials for Fauna and Flora Lusitaniae”.

However, his exploration spread out to Spain and France and he went beyond his scientific purpose and decided to write a travel book about these three countries.


“At the time we had no idea of publishing and account of our travels as such; our chief attention was directed to investigating the works of nature, especially the botanical riches of the country”

Nevertheless on his return, after reading numerous accounts of travels in Portugal, Link discovered so many inaccuracies that he decided to “seize the pen to defend my friends the Portugueze” and wrote Travels in Portugal and through France and Spain. With a dissertation on the literature of Portugal, and the Spanish and Portugueze Languages.

Written in 1801 and translated from the German by John Hincley the copy available in our library was published that year by Nichols and Son Printers, in London. The information related to Spain is gathered in six chapters of the book (VII-XI), from Biscay to Extremadura, through Castile and Madrid.



About the author:


About the book:

(pdf – page 18)


Online book:



Club de lectura = Reading group

El 22 de marzo de 2010 en Books, Reading group por | Sin comentarios
El Colectivo invites you to the Reading Group that organizes in collaboration with the Instituto Cervantes. It offers you the opportunity to talk about and discuss Spanish and Latin American literature, imitating the traditional Spanish tertulia. The reading group meets one Friday per month at 6.30pm in the Instituto Cervantes; it is free to join and you are welcome to come along to any session. In order to participate, there is only one requirement: to have read the scheduled book.
El Colectivo te invita a participar en el Club de Lectura que organiza en colaboración con El Instituto Cervantes. Las reuniones recuperan la tradición de la tertulia y son gratuitas y abiertas. Para participar sólo hay un requisito: haber leído el libro que se propone cada mes.
Here you are the books to come // Los próximos libros serán:
  • Todas las almas de Javier Marías -26 de marzo, 6.30pm
  • El olvido que seremos de Héctor Abad -23 de abril, 6.30pm
  • La virgen de los sicarios de Fernando Vallejo -28 mayo, 6.30pm
  • El mundo de Juan José Millás -25 junio, 6.30pm
  • La invención de Morel de Bioy Casares -16 julio, 6.30pm




Laughing over lemons

Chris StewartWE DON’T do stand-up comedy at the Instituto Cervantes, we don’t even do sit-down comedy very often, but last night’s audience with Chris ‘Driving Over Lemons’ Stewart was the funniest evening LondonSpanish has had for some time.

Chris proved he is just as witty a speaker as he is a writer, and another packed house was soon laughing along as he recounted his latest adventures and embarrassments in the Alpujarras. Like the rest of Andalusia, the area has seen rainfall of epic proportions in the past few months, and Chris told how a flood swept away one of its many ham-curing houses.

Locals gathered downstream hoping to salvage some of the contents as they were washed up – only to find the meat had been smashed away by the torrent and just bones remained. As Chris would later point out, mountain people are a little, um, different.

(Read more…)


“Tourist in Spain» (1837) by Thomas Roscoe

Alcazar at SegoviaThomas Roscoe (Liverpool, 1791) was a British journalist and travel-writer. The account of his journeys was published by Mr. Jennings within the collection Landscape Annual. Although Mr. Roscoe wrote four volumes on Spain –which can be found in our library–, Tourist in Spain: Biscay and the Castile’s is his most representative piece of travel writing. He also wrote works on France, Italy and Morocco and The Life and Writings of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

In Tourist in Spain (1837) the author relates the events that took place throughout his travels around Spain, starting in the autumn of 1935. Bayonne is the starting point of the peninsular tour, through the Pyrenees, visiting then Vitoria, Burgos, Segovia, Madrid and ending in Toledo. Within the first half of the volume, Mr. Roscoe stresses the events related to the conflict that is taking place during that period, the First Carlist War, and its “barbarous excesses committed on both sides throughout this lamentable war”.

Besides Roscoe’s personal adventures, the author relates stories from other people that he met during his journey. With regard to the Spaniards, the journalist states that “they do not govern themselves here by the laws of ethics, but by custom, or according to the rules they can suck out of the pith of old proverbs, mostly antediluvian, and just suited to the world as it existed before the flood”.

Street of Alcalá, MadridThe engravings by David Roberts that illustrate the book are one of the most remarkable features of this volume. According to Spectator, “The engravings are so uniformly excellent, that we cannot, without doing injustice to the other, name any one in particular. They are, for the most part, perfect”.


About the author:


Online book:


Other works on Spain by Roscoe:




The Silent Revolution

ICLL Podcast series: New Episode (in Spanish)

The Silent Revolution

Graphic design between 1920 and 1950 constituted a means of distribution for aesthetic and political avant-garde ideas. In contrast with the Muralist movement, its presence was rather more modest but its scope was wider.

While the muralists were painting their masterpieces on official buildings, graphic art was being distributed through educational channels and channels for literacy campaigns all over the country. Some of the best artists participated in this work: Leopoldo Méndez, Alvarado Lang, Jean Charlot, Emilio Amero.

Small print production cooperatives such as Escuelas al Aire Libre, Taller de la Gráfica Popular (TGP) and artistic movements such as Los Estridentistas emerged.

José Manuel Springer

Collaborating Organisation
Embajada de México (Reino Unido)


“Spain and its People” by Eugène Poitou

Spain and its people

First published in France in 1869, Spain and its People. A record of Recent Travel with historical and topographical notes, was translated by William Henry Davenport Adams, an English writer and journalist (whose biography is available in Wikipedia) in 1872. 

The copy accessible in our library contains numerous engravings by V. Foulquier portraying scenes of the everyday life in Spain, its landscapes, traditions and main episodes of its History. 

As Davenport points out in the preface, 

if Poitou´s pages pretend to no great depth of reflection, they sketch the present condition of Spain, – they delineate its landscapes, they cull the choicest episodes of its history, and touch upon the more conspicuous features of the Spanish character,- with unfailing good sense, quick discrimination, and considerable facility. 

Spanish people and their manners are the object of a lot of criticism made by Poitou through this book, staying such things as They have no taste or Spain, nevertheless, is very good! But, I must own, the Spaniards have somewhat spoiled it; and thanks to them, I return more persuaded that ever of the truth of the adage, that we always learn something by travelling, if it be only to love better our own country”

Don Quixote

Don Quixote

Starting from the northern cities bordering on France and heading southwards, the author takes particular interest in describing the Cathedral of Toledo, Museo del Prado in Madrid or Zaragoza, which the author believes to be “the most interesting city of Spain”. At the beginning of every chapter a poem of renowned author is included, verses by Byron, Southey and Jorge Manrique, among others. 


About the author: 


About the book: 


Online book: 




Ediciones EL CIPRÉS: Brand New Spanish Publishing House

Ediciones El Ciprés was born in León, Spain, just a few weeks ago. They are publishing fiction and poetry and Antino, a novel by Mercedes Unzeta Gullón, is the first title in their catalogue. Good luck!

Fear, love, lack of affection/indifference, greed, life and death are the protagonists of this moving true story led by the character of Antino, a young, attractive and lively thirty-seven-year-old man who, at the happiest and most joyful time of his existence learns that his future is coming to an end, and his life is tagged with an expiry date: a few years, although it will be a lot less.

The story, taking place between a Mediterranean island and the city of Madrid, narrates the existential changes that will occur in the life of Antino and those around him. Changes that make the foreseeable turn into the unexpected, and the unthinkable become something usual.

It is essential to take into consideration how the disease is approached in the story.

It used only a sinister and painful excuse to take the reader down a path in which all human grandeurs and miseries are revealed. AIDS is the slap in the face that the characters get, to wake them up to the realities of life and death; knowing how to approach these realities (which we tend to ignore in our day to day lives) with love and courage is one of life’s greatest difficulties. They are the main issues of the human being, its constants: love, life, doubt, death; the difference is on the approach we use.

The story could lead to self-compassion, be torn apart, to an open heart…

Keeping the courage and at the same time building a tender, accepting atmosphere, making bonds that would be impossible in other circumstances, is an achievement that, to anyone who has ever endured (and who hasn’t?) an intense sentiment of any kind must draw an interest.

The reader is first introduced to the situation as an observer, from the outside, with initial surprise. Then he will become a participant, mainly in the love, but also in the pain, the anguish, the contempt, and the astonishment towards the meanness some fellow men are able to display. And will end up seated by Enriqueta and Cristina’s side, feeling the strong presence of Antino, and laughing with their complicity to the dismayed expression of a young funerary.

A strong optimism, full of hope and joy, floods the environment that nurtures/nourishes the details of the story. Love and humour, in equal quantities, are shared out with generosity in its essential lines.

Some novels turn those who approach them into observers, critics, contributors, masters, pupils,… but to achieve all at the same time is a rarity. This novel is one of those rare pieces.

Elena Miranda Alas. Ediciones El Ciprés (“El Ciprés Publishing House”)




Blood wedding

El 8 de marzo de 2010 en Spain in London, Theatre por | Sin comentarios

Tower Theatre

The Groom has proposed. The gifts are exchanged. The Bride longs for the wedding night. But what of the Horseman who loved her first? Lorca wrote his classic romantic tragedy in 1932, after fellow artist Salvador Dali completed his dripping watches landscape. Harsh, surreal, the play conjures cameos from the Moon and Death. The soundtrack : the percussion of the blood. A sultry night, a crescent in the sky. In the end, who will claim the Bride?

Blood Wedding by Federico Garcia Lorca, in a new version by Tanya Ronder

Directed by Lara Muth

Evenings at 7.45 p.m.
Tuesday March 16th – Saturday March 20th
Matinée at 3 p.m.
Saturday March 20th

Ticket Prices : £11 standard tickets
(£9 concessions/members)

[Click here for details of the venue]



ICLL Podcast Series

Did you miss any of our cultural events? Don’t worry. Now you can catch up with our book presentations, lectures and workshops.

The Instituto Cervantes Library in London [ICLL] is uploading the cultural events held at the Instituto since January 2010, and gradually, we are digitizing the recordings we keep in our archives since 1992.

Here you are the first one of our podcast series. Enjoy!

Michael Jacobs and Paul Preston

Spain, for all its recent changes, continues to be a country perceived by foreigners in terms of stereotypes dating back to the early 19th century. I argue that modern chroniclers fail to reflect the reality of a nation whose already diverse traditions now embrace a multitude of European, South American, and African cultures.´ Michael Jacobs  

Paul Preston described Michael Jacobs, as ´the magical realist hispanist’.  He has been travelling around Spain and the Hispanic world since childhood.

His many books on the country include Between Hopes and Memories: A Spanish Journey, and The Factory of Light: Tales from my Andalucian Village, to be published in Spanish by Ediciones B in February 2010. Listen now!    


Michael Jacobs
Paul Preston


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