Saturday, November 24, 2012

We'll Strike Manana

There was a general strike in Lanzarote last week, which was a great shame as it put a temporary halt to some of Spain's great building projects.  Here in the UK we like to build things, as of course many other countries do, roads, flyovers, sports stadiums and the like.  In Spain though, perhaps reflecting on the great influence that Dali, Gaudi and Picasso have have on world art, in Spain they like to do things a little differently.

One of Spain's most intriguing architectural accomplishments is the free standing column.  Placed by the side of a road, with a tangle of rusting cables poking from its top like a bad experiment with dreadlocks these columns sporadically decorate the Spanish countryside.  What are they ? Were they meant to support a bridge that the Spanish then decided they did not want to cross, was it a gateway perhaps and now nobody wishes to go there, or was it a tiny part of some far grander construction project ? Alas, now we shall never know.  Perhaps, as the spray paint spattered concrete lump recedes in your rear view mirror you might think that the Spanish government has decided to install some open air blank canvasses for aspiring graffiti artists to practise upon.

Another great favourite of the Spanish building industry is to dig a huge hole in the ground, throw a couple of unwanted cement mixers down it, run some flimsy red tape around to prevent dogs,  toddlers and drunk English tourists from falling in, and then leave it well alone. For ever.

My personal favourite though exists next to the main road outside Puerto del Carmen on Lanzarote.  Here Spanish road builders have made a fifty metre long section of road which begins suddenly in the midst of the rocky desert landscape, and then ends equally suddenly in a length not even Usain Bolt could get interested about.  This quasi road is a self contained bit of pointlessness in the central reservation.  Looking at the landscape around it you struggle to see how the builders even managed to get a tarmacadam laying machine to begin, and then suddenly quit, their project.  The Spanish have built some really great roads; the switchbacks, tunnels and the possibility at all times of a swift terror filled plunge to rocky doom as the road rises up the mountains to Ronda are an exhilarating experience, the road to nowhere on Lanzarote though is as decidedly quirky as some of its great art.  It is the Soft Construction with Boiled Beans of the road laying genre.

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