Monday, 8 September 2014


--> We've been congregating - meeting friends at a Coruna's smart little airport (touch down, walk out into the public area 6 minutes later with your bags). And we've been sitting about a bit.
It's weird having Andrew willing to 'do' nothing for maybe half an hour at a time. But it's good for us, especially for catching up on sleep.
Yesterday we took Lulu and Snelling into Pontedeume to see the start of the fiesta. We'd been told it would be packed, parking would be difficult etc etc, so we were there well before eleven, for a fiesta start at midday. Hot chocolate with churros seemed to be the order of the moment - as we chose our table with a view, the rain started. We retreated to a dryer but darker table - and then in great waves, the rains started. If you could mechanise this rain it would make the greatest car-wash or street-cleaning machine in the world.  It batted through from low soft grey skies which appeared not to move but nonetheless gave us great sequences of soft torrents. 
A sequence of warfront explosions up in the air over the river made children scream and adults flinch.  We didn't count - maybe it was 21.  By getting drenched to go and look at the explosion zone, you could see the tiny fierce flash, then see the puff of smoke and then the huge sound pounded down into the streets. For the last one, I also heard the thin whizzing screech as the shell shot up into the air.  All for fun, while some places in this wicked world get those bangs for real, right inside their houses, onto the breakfast table, in their children's faces. 
At a few moments past midday, having failed to get to the main square because we were wimps and didn't want to get wet, we seized a momentary break in the monsoon to go and see the carnival. The tight little square was filled with families, with a discernible wash of people moving away from us in the far corner and up one of the pretty balconied alleys.  We skirted round, taking one of the horizontal paths to reach the next road up, and Lulu and I pressed on to meet the crowd where the lanes converged. Andrew and Snelling stayed behind, more staid, as Snelling had a bad back and walking uphill and back down would be too much.
At the turns of the tiny streets we could see a huge twirling pink skirt.  At the top of our lane, we found them - the two momeri (?) - a double-height man and woman, he a stern Roman centurion, she a pouting staring matron with white gloves on her hands, and a coronet and gold earrings.  Under her crinolined skirts a pair of hairy masculine legs ended in a pair of trainers.  These two monstrous creatures made a slow, unsteady progress up to the higher square, stopping occasionally for the men inside to rest, leaning forward from time to time to leer over a child or a shopfront.
Behind them, a quartet of pipers and drum gave them a throbbing squealing accompaniment, the musicians dressed in very smart black and white, with shoe pompoms, and the local Galician bagpipes hurling their squeaky bouncy music out to echo in the narrow streets. The crowds pressed round on all sides, shrinking back as the two giants pushed towards them, this way and that. As the creatures - queen and king, lord and lady, goddess and god, good luck and bad (who knows?) - twirled round occasionally, their arms flayed out, just above head height for the crowds, scattering a kind of benison or threat.  The tops of their great papier-mache heads just passed underneath the electric cables strung across the streets for the festival - neatly avoiding collision, or drenching, or electrocution.  Up there in the top square, the two colossi faced each other in a silent conversation or stand-off. There was a small space around them, as they contemplated each other. Mothers lifted children forward to touch the hand of the lady.  The pipers fell quiet. Then, the two great creatures advanced towards each other, and held their great faces together in a prolonged snog. The crowd went wild, cheering and clapping, whistling and laughing.  The band struck up again, and from within the crowd itself, a tribe of smaller creatures appeared, with great swollen heads - monsters, cartoon characters, beasts - little children inside them pushing through the throng to get as near as they could to the giant parent couple, who were starting to make their way back down the crowded lane, past the carved stone pilgrims' crosses and windowed balconies and dark little bars.
By this act, a metaphorical sexual coupling, the prosperity of the town will have been affirmed - and indeed, the 'holy' couple stopped in front of many of the businesses on their way back down towards main markets, and stood staring with their rather accusing eyes at the name-boards over the doorways, and leaning forward - especially that impassive dark Grace-Kelly of a queen - to loom over someone on their way. 
We took shelter again in another café beside the market as the rain started, and eventually that tiny band of black and white minstrels made their way round under the colonnade where we were sipping wine or bitter-orange, and nibbling at our empanadas of atun, and they serenaded each business, each little shop or café, spreading the jollity and promise of a happy year ahead for the proprietor. The rain bashed down, causing even the herring gulls to look gloomy.  But it was warm, and people dashed across the street to various umbrella-roofed tables, and formed happy groups with children dancing about. Hours unwound.
Lunch was taken in Redes, round the bay to the north - ordered up in advance, and our table of ten (mostly from Faversham) feasted on pimientos de Padron, succulent morsels of pulpo (octopus), a salad of asparagus and crisp sweet onions with tomatoes and lettuce, and then two great dishes of merluza (hake) with pale sweet crisp chips. The rain hammered down. We drank local fragrant white wine and sparkling water, and then they gave us bottles of three liqueurs to serve ourselves - a coffee syrup, a cream-based one, and something called herbas - bright yellow and slightly bitter. The rain stopped. 
Lulu and John's daughter Katy elected to walk back along the coastal path (which we, one year ago, had found very arduous up and down, in and out), and we fixed a rendezvous nearer to Pontedeume - the bar where I was serenaded on my birthday nearly a year ago.
Home - bed.  Lulu was violently sick. (She's feeling better today, btw).

1 comment:

  1. Griselda, you write so beautifully. I can honestly see and taste the things you describe.