Thursday, 27 December 2007

Clowns in the Convent

Ah, The Clowns of Arenillas de San Pelayo! It could have been a terribly dull afternoon, but Libby and I were shanghai-ed along on a rather dreary prospect...a gathering of elderly campesinos at a 10th century monastery out in the middle of Palencia.

El Colegia de los Campos, a state social service agency, does its best to get isolated villagers out of the hovel and into some good company. (I am not sure how they feel about immigrant interlopers being caught in their nets, but there we were.) There´s a tiny meeting of neighbors in Moratinos every Tuesday afternoon outside the harvest months, and Paddy usually goes... they chat about current events and play Spanish Scrabble, which is a very strange creature indeed.. but I digress. This Arenillas meeting was to be a special regional treat, we were told.

Paddy bailed out. Libby said she would go. Like the rest of the old farmers around here, she needed to get out of the house.

We went in a terribly squished little car up hill and dale, with Modesto and Raquel. They are sorta the patriarchs of Moratinos, very "plugged-in" to local government. I think they also own an awful lot of land around here... but they have always been very nice to us, and so I seldom refuse their invitations to go and see sights. And they know everybody. They can get the keys to open up Romanesque chapels and crumbling barns and pigeon-lofts and navigational towers.

The clowns, two 20-something boys, had the 40-or-so campesinos rolling in the aisles. A lot of it I didn´t get, but that´s OK. I had seen the church and the chapterhouse already, and I could smell the chocolate brewing in the kitchen.

Arenillas is a perfect example of the secret treasures that lie scattered around here in the hills and valleys. Here, converted in a nice way into a senior center, was an ancient Premonstratensian seminary and church, complete with Romanesque stonework over the door, an extremely cold and ancient and still-in-use church, and a meeting and classroom for the monks that dates back 1,000 years. There still are 16th-century monk initials carved into the tabletops. I love this sort of thing! I am willing to tolerate CLOWNS for a good snoop inside something so historical and tucked-away and otherwise inaccessible to me!

After the clowns put away their hooters and honkers we all had hot chocolate thick enough to stand up your spoon. Then Modesto stood up and shared with us all three of his wildly popular poems. One was about A Mother´s Love, another about Garlic Soup, the local staple. The encore extolled The Noble Mule. Here is a picture of the performance. There wasn´t a dry seat in the house!

We have been enjoying the dogs very much these days. Una went out yesterday morning to the Hare Field and ran into something that fought back. She came home with her ear tattered and muzzle bloodied-up, but after a good scrubbing she is none the worse for wear. She really enjoyed Libby´s last days here, and seemed to know she´d better get in all the cuddling she could.

That is me by the "Christmas Tree," getting the Rias Baixas white opened up for our Christmas feast. (I am red-cheeked from the hot kitchen, OK??)

The last picture might be the best. It can´t compare to the monastery at Arenillas, and there are no clowns in it. But it´s the view into our despensa... see that tile floor, starting to take on a shine? And see those spankin´ new windows, ready to be installed? Beautiful!

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