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The Culture Vulture

About cultural things: music, dance, literature and theatre.

CHRIS STEWART – rock drummer, sheep shearer, hispanophile and writer
Friday, January 14, 2022 @ 5:59 AM

Chris Stewart shot to fame with Driving Over Lemons in 1999. Funny, insightful and real, the book told the story of how he bought a peasant farm on the wrong side of the river, with its previous owner still resident.

I was given this book by a friend, John, a fellow Spanish teacher, as a 50th birthday present in 2000. Strange title, I thought, but, hey, what a great read it turned out to be. It prompted me to read other books by foreigners who had bought property in Spain.

 

Driving Over Lemons

No sooner had this Englishman set eyes on El Valero than he handed over a cheque.  Now all he had to do was explain to Ana, his wife that they were the proud owners of an isolated sheep farm in the Alpujarra Mountains in Southern Spain.  That was the easy part.

Lush with olive, lemon, and almond groves, the farm lacks a few essentials—running water, electricity, an access road.  And then there’s the problem of rapacious Pedro Romero, the previous owner, who refuses to leave.  A perpetual optimist, whose skill as a sheepshearer provides an ideal entrée into his new community, Stewart also possesses an unflappable spirit that, we soon learn, nothing can diminish. 

Wholly enchanted by the rugged terrain of the hillside and the people they meet along the way—among them farmers, including the ever-resourceful Domingo, other expatriates and artists—Chris and Ana Stewart build an enviable life, complete with a daughter, Chloe, and dogs, in a country far from home.

His sequels to Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia are A Parrot in the Pepper Tree, and The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society. They are also great reads and became international bestsellers too.

 

Chris Stewart - Background

Born in Crawley, Surrey, in 1951 and raised in Horsham in Sussex, Stewart was a classmate of Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel at Charterhouse School in Surrey, and joined them in a school band which went on to become Genesis in January 1967.

Stewart appears on Genesis's first two singles, The Silent Sun / That's Me and A Winter's Tale / One-Eyed Hound. He also drums on their first album. Despite this he was fired from the band in the summer of 1968 due to his poor technique and was replaced by John Silver.

After his somewhat short career as a rock musician he joined a circus, learned how to shear sheep, went to China to write the Rough Guide, gained a pilot’s license in Los Angeles, and completed a course in French cooking.

 

Other publications

Stewart's publisher, Sort of Books, released another memoir in 2009, entitled Three Ways to Capsize a Boat: An Optimist Afloat. This one focused on sailing.

In 2014 Sort Of Books published a further book of stories, Last Days of the Bus Club, which focuses on his daughter's going to university, and his and Ana's subsequent life alone on the farm.

Stewart has also contributed to two books in the Rough Guides series: the Rough Guide to Andalucia and the Rough Guide to China.

 

A personal perspective

Chris Stewart's trilogy about life in Órgiva certainly inspired me to buy property in Spain, do it up and eventually live here.

By 2001 my first wife and I had bought our first Spanish property, a modern apartment in a comunidad de propietarios in Ronda (Málaga). I kept Piso Blanco for 18 years.

In 2003 we bought a house, a semi-ruin, to do up. Also in Ronda. I sold Casa Blanca in 2008.

In 2005 I retired and got divorced and that summer I 'reformed' a house in Ronda for my girlfriend of the time. El Rincón was sold on in 2010.

In September 2008 I met a lovely German lady who was living in Montejaque, a mountain village near Ronda and I moved to live there full-time at the end of December 2008.

In 2011 I bought a villa with pool and gardens for me and the German lady, who became my second wife in 2010, to live in. 12 years on we are still in Villa Indiana, which is in Fuente de la Higuera, just outside Ronda.

In 2020 I bought another reforma. I’m just finishing off Casa Real, in Montejaque, which will be a vivienda rural from April 2022.

***

So, thank you, Chris Stewart for the inspiration. That’s why you are number three on my list of top writers about Spain.

 

Note: To read about numbers 1 and 2 on that list and indeed the Culture Vulture’s full top five, see elsewhere in  this blog:

LAURIE LEE

JASON WEBSTER

My Top 5 Writers about Spain

 

 



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