Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fidel Castro's Last Beret

The Spanish Basque Nicolás Gregorio Rodríguez, an 89-year-old "war child", has kept the olive-green beret he was given by Fidel Castro all his life. Nicolás met Castro in Cuba where he worked as a translator for the Soviet military.
"Fidel gave it to me, and afterwards he did not wear any beret anymore," said Nicolás, a native of Bilbao, at his home in Moscow.
The octogenarian keeps the beret along with a discolored photo in which he appears next to the deceased Cuban communist leader in a Soviet military unit on the island, where he was destined for two and a half years.
"I told him that I was Spanish, but that I now live in the Soviet Union, and that I had come to Cuba as a volunteer.
At the time, Castro was "interested" in the workings of the T-55 tank, a tank that the Soviets kept secret for years and ended up giving away to the Cuban regular army.
"They needed a regular Army to defend themselves against a possible US invasion." Everybody was on the street with guns in their belts, Fidel carrying a Soviet Stechkin pistol with a wooden handle, "he says.
Nicolás, who arrived in the USSR in 1937, was deeply affected by the death of "compañero" Fidel, as he called him, since he was a "fantastic" character.
A book on Fidel written by the daughter of the commander, Alina Fernández, and a diploma of honor signed by Raúl Castro, is kept in a privileged place.
The Spaniard traveled to Havana in December 1962 on the same boat as the young Cubans who had been instructed by Soviet military at the Georgian naval secret base of Poti (Black Sea) as part of the Kremlin's aid to the Cuban Revolution.
"I saw myself more often with Raul, who was the head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. When I was on duty and he came, I translated for him, since I was fluent in Spanish and Russian." He also met Ché Guevara, with whom he spent some time when they sat together in the Havana stadium to see Valeri Lobanovski's legendary Dinamo Kiev.
"He smoked cigars that were long, even though he had asthma," he recalls, gesturing graphically.
Nicolás liked Cuba so much that he asked to have his stay extended so as not to have to return to Moscow in the winter, and he stayed on the island until May 1965, after which he returned to the train parts factory where he worked at Outskirts of the Soviet capital.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Max Bill

Max Bill (1908 –1994) was a Swiss architect, artist, painter, typeface designer, industrial designer and graphic designer.
Max Bill and Edmund Collein at the Bauhaus
Bill was born in Winterthur. After an apprenticeship as a silversmith during 1924-1927, Bill took up studies at the Bauhaus in Dessau under many teachers including Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Oskar Schlemmer from 1927 to 1929, after which he moved to Zurich.
Bill is widely considered the single most decisive influence on Swiss graphic design beginning in the 1950s. 
His connection to the days of the Modern Movement gave him special authority. As an industrial designer, his work is characterized by a clarity of design and precise proportions. Examples are the elegant clocks and watches designed for Junghans, a long-term client.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Dantzari

Dantzari Dantza from Durangaldea (Biscay) is a well-known cycle of dances where on the eve of the local feast day, it is the custom to set up the traditional San Juan or Donianeatxa oak tree (now usually a poplar). 
The trunk is peeled and the branches limbed, and flowers and a sometime a flag or two are placed at the top. All of the festive activities take place around this symbol, which is set up in the middle of the town square. 
The nine dances that make up the cycle have remained unchanged since at least the 19th century; the choreography consists of two parallel rows of dancers standing face to face. The dancers, in a show of virility, very skilfully manoeuvre fighting weapons as part of the dance.
 




Dantzari also was an illustrious label of beret manufacturer Aznarez from Pamplona. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Protected Basque Beret

The Swiss newspaper 24heures reports on the French Government’s decision to declare le béret basque (the beret) and espardilles de Mauléon (sandals) as protected regional products. 
The Geographical Indication (known by the acronym IG in French) that is applied to these aforementioned products (among others) is a new label identifying French manufactured products of high quality, prestige, or that have characteristics exclusively attributed to a specific geographical area. 
The Swiss newspaper 24heures reports on the French Government’s decision to declare le béret basque (the beret) and espardilles de Mauléon (sandals) as protected regional products. The Geographical Indication (known by the acronym IG in French) that is applied to these aforementioned products (among others) is a new label identifying French manufactured products of high quality, prestige, or that have characteristics exclusively attributed to a specific geographical area. This identification label became effective in early June.
This identification label became effective in early June.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

World's Oldest Beret

As if the ongoing discussion ('war', some would say) between Béarnais and Basques about the origin of the beret isn't enough, it has now been discovered that the Basque beret is actually Jewish, or at least from Palestine. 
Discover Magazine published the evidence in their April 2017 issue:. 
On the final day of digging last September, archaeologists in Yehud (Israel), unearthed this unusual ceramic creation. It’s an ordinary Bronze Age jug, but perched on top is a figure wearing a beret, frozen in contemplation. The 3800 year old piece was probably a funerary offering made for a respected community member, according to dig director Gilad Itach of the Israel Antiquities Authority. He said the figure was added to the jug before firing, but each might have come from separate craftsmen. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

En Route 23 / Return

By the time this get's published, I arrive back in Auckland, New Zealand. One more flight to Wellington and home at Beret HQ at the Ngaio Plateau (severly jet-legged, no doubt, after some 30 hours of travelling)!
So, last "just a photo" for the time being; all unshipped orders placed over the past weeks will be shipped today and from tomorrow, fresh regular posts!
Thanks for staying with me!


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Taking Leave

My last full day in New Zealand, for the time being. Off to the Old World; apart from visiting family and friends, meetings in Bayonne, Oloron Sainte Marie, Tolosa, Bilbao and various places in Béarn and the French Basque Country. The aim is to return after 3 weeks with lots of material for The Beret Project and some new beret models too.
Meanwhile, South Pacific Berets and Boneteria Aotearoa remain open 24/7; whenever possible orders will be shipped within the usual 24 hours, some orders will only be shipped upon my return on 24 May.
Today, a small selection of the many magnets that always accompany a beret order and from tomorrow, as usual during my absences, every day an interesting, historic, funny, precious, sexy, vintage beret picture.
See you in 3 weeks time!