Sunday, 15 June 2008
The Longest Day of the Year
The weather is perfect.
Sahagun has been in full fiesta mode for days, but we´ve pretty much stayed away from the crowds and the racket. Una can hear the fireworks all the way from there, 9 km. away, and they still freak her out! Poor dog. Someone must´ve shot her with a BB gun when she was a pup, as any kind of shot or explosion sends her right out of her skin. The other two dogs just ignore it. (Tim, being a hunter, is actually attracted to gunshots!)
Dogs are very much in the picture around here lately. We have been hosting Che, a little Jack Russell Terrier pilgrim dog, owned by Sarah and Joop from Belgium. Jack Russells are composed almost entirely of energy, but it looks like the Camino has been a bit too much even for her. Her little footpads are swollen, and she´s just wiped out... and sleeping in a tent isn´t really agreeing with her either. She woke up a couple of nights ago and started eating strange things. We´re not talking frog legs here, we´re talking half a towel, the edge of a t-shirt, and a shoelace.
So Che is not a happy pooch. She arrived here yesterday afternoon in one of the most clever constructions I´ve seen on the Camino. She was slung in a cargo net from a stick, which Joop and Sara carried her 8 kilos between them. What a deluxe ride! I can´t see most dogs tolerating this sort of thing, but Che just happily rode along, rockin´in rhythm, not having to walk any more.
Late in the evening an Australian couple arrived, too, and a very timely thing it was... she (another Sarah) is a veterinary nurse, and he (Andrew) is an architect. They are doing-over a dairy barn in rural Queensland, and he´s very into bodega caves, so we all had much to discuss and see and do!
Che´s paws got a good going-over, and we all took an architectural tour of the Alamo and the bodegas (Esteban came out and opened up his monumental bodega and passed around samples of this year´s vintage, which was declared "spunky, young, and hair-raising.") We came back to the house and feasted on roast chicken and huge salads and Belgian chocolates. Gotta love them Belgians!
Joop and Sarah are very taken with Mimi Dog. They may come back after their Camino and take her home with them to Brussels. I think it´s a great idea, but it makes Paddy sad. She would have to learn to speak Flemish.
The pilgrims hit the road again this morning, and I´ve been doing laundry all afternoon. Tonight we´re going into Sahagun to watch a bullfight on TV. We don´t usually like bullfights, but they are strangely fascinating... much like passing an accident scene along the highway. You can´t look away. Anyway, there´s a new bullfighter on the scene right now who is spoken-of in phenomenal terms, supposedly the best and finest and most humane killer of bulls seen in Spain in the last 30 years. His name is Jose Thomas. (I wonder when he´ll appear on Celebrity Look Who´s Dancing. Then he´ll be a LEGIT celebrity!)
... A few hours later: We got into Sahagun just in time for the final encierro of the fiesta. Just after we found a parking place they shut the steel gates they´ve been erecting for weeks, and the brass bands started marching up the streets to the bullring. The "novillos," or "little bulls" (aka ´calves with horns´) were supposed to be set loose at 7:30 p.m., but about 7:15 the sky cut loose with a downpour. The scurrying was monumental, the bars filled up, and general merriment ensued.
I found Paca sitting outside Bar La Rueda. She´d staked-out a table with a full view of the plaza mayor, and was holding court with her friends. I´ve written before about Paca, an 80-something Sahagun native ball-o-fire who runs with her family a little book shop in town. She was in full blossom today, with all kinds of fresh gossip and news of this year´s successful fiesta.
Paddy scurried off to Bar Deportivo to see the Corrida, and Paca sent me after him, saying she´d still be at the plaza when I got back. And what followed was about two hours of hiking up and down Calle Constitucion from one packed-out bar to the next and to the bullring, trying to find Paddy somewhere among the exhausted drunks and the raging bulls. It was a lesson in how many people I´ve never seen before already knowing who we are. Everyone in the city evidently had seen Paddy about three minutes before I got there, and found it highly amusing that I couldn´t catch up to him. He, of course, had left his mobile telephone at home.
I love this man, however, and was really kinda enjoying myself. Kike bought me a beer at Bar Robles, and Leandro the Plumber invited us to dine with his Peña -- one of the big confraternal clubs that run around in odd uniforms throughout the fiesta.
I finally gave up and rejoined Paca and Nieves and Piedad and the ladies out on the arcade at the plaza. I asked them about peñas, and heard the lowdown on the local priest; a local tragedy that´s left a lady bedfast for 12 years, aware but unable to speak; a warning about the gypsy folk who are in town running the carnival rides ("they sing beautifully, and some of them dance. It´s wonderful. And when they do that, hang onto your purse!")
The rain came pouring down again, and the wind picked up. I noticed something pink waving and bouncing in the breeze from the front of a vendors´ stall... It was one of the prizes for a shooting-gallery game. There among the giant plush pythons and cuddly monkeys waved a pair of flesh-tone inflatable sex dolls, their lipstick mouths making O´s into the rain. Ah, Spain!
The bulls ran anyway. (they don´t kill them at encierras. They just tease them a lot.) The bands played, the crowds shifted around the town, and I finally found Paddy again, back at the Deportivo. The weather was trying to clear when we left, and as we turned eastward the sunset broke through behind us. And up front, stretched out from one side of the sky to the other, was the most spectacular rainbow that either of us has ever seen.
It couldn´t be captured by camera, but I tried anyway.
Vichysiosse for dinner. And a long sleep with rain pattering against the windows.