Owls in Surround Sound

Technically this isn’t about food or flamenco, not unless owls sing in a flamenco palos such as the bulerias, but it is about music and the natural world which are also important to me.

I live now in the old part of town called San Mateo and often walk up the hill along a road called San Ildefonso past the old Domecq Bodega towards Plaza Mercado. This area means a lot to me. I first met my singing teacher in Jerez sitting outside an old Tablao on the corner of Plaza Mercado called Tio Parillo. I had met Luis before in the UK where he comes to sing with my flamenco teacher Ester Tal. I was just sitting in the sun and he noticed me and then invited me to a performance that night. I sat in the small audience at a table in the front. I had recently been to an exhibition of paintings by Stephen an artist who lives in Bournemouth and dances flamenco and attends flamenco lessons as well with Ester. It was meeting Stephen and his partner Julie that got me into learning with Ester in the first place. I didn’t think anything about the performance or the picture. However when I got home I realised that I had sat in exactly the same seat that Stephen had painted my picture from. There was Luis and the rest of the group.

Anyway I now live a short walk away from that spot and the old building is for sale and the Tablao no longer operational – sad.

So walking home I sometimes hear owls hooting to each other whilst out hunting. There are pieces of open ground around where the hunting must be good. They are invariably out on a full moon as well. This time it was pouring with rain and I was walking home from choir practise close which takes place in a church close to Plaza Arenal in the Centre of Jerez. I have to walk past the Cathedral and then up the hill past the convent and then the Fundador Bodega. This time I reckoned that there were about four owls calling to each other and I stood in pouring rain to locate them. The last time I did that I saw one of them in silhouette perched on the top of the roof of the Bodega. Given the perspective I reckoned it was a pretty big bird – nearly a metre in height and certainly the height of a good-sized raptor or bird of prey like a Goshawk.

This time I located the sound and realised that it was coming from deep in the foliage of the tree I was standing under. So I looked up and there it was with its head swivelling every time it hooted. I don’t know who was more startled him or me! I was certainly attracting attention and the bird certainly knew that I wasn’t prey but something more alarming. However in these sorts of circumstances I stay very still and project calm and stillness and love. Birds and animals respond to that and this one certainly did. It didn’t fly away but kept on ‘talking’ to me (and his compadres!). It was amazing to hear these very loud hoots in surround sound with this one just a couple of metres above my head. I stood there frozen until I got bored and very wet and decided to walk on home. However it was a very special moment.

Because it was raining the moon wasn’t out, but later I realised that once again it was a full moon. So even thought the moon wasn’t giving out light they must still be attracted to hunt then because it always happens no matter how cloudy or bright.

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