Thursday, 1 January 2009

A New Year Weird

The final couple of days of 2008 seemed like a landslide, with two new neighbors arriving, Philip departing, a Madrid hammam and a lucky meeting with two merry Scotsmen, and a long, long train ride back home. I was more than ready for a day or two of peace and quiet and just-me-and-Paddy solitude, but there was still one big consideration: it was New Year´s Eve! What kind of loon spends his New Year´s Eve alone and quiet? In Spain?

Last year we had a lovely, noisy time with the Milagros and Segundino families, in the corner house of the Plaza Mayor (I wrote about it here on the blog, matter of fact.) But this year, with Victoriana gone, the corner house stands cold and empty. Milagros came over in the afternoon and handed over a great bag of winter vegetables and said the family was doing "Noche Vieja" in Sahagun this year.

But all was not lost... Elyn and Gary are now on the scene!

Elyn and Gary are from Santa Fe, New Mexico via Boulder, Colo. They are Pioneer Camino Heads, seeing as Elyn walked the Camino de Santiago in 1982, and spent a year living in Sahagun while working on her academic thesis. Ten years ago they lived in Sahagun again for several months, til family commitments called them back to America. And now they´re back again, with official Spanish Retirement Visas in hand. Within three days they´ve found a little apartment in Sahgun, right by the cheese factory. And so we have new neighbors, English-speaking neighbors! Woohoo! And people to invite over to our place to celebrate New Year´s Eve!

And so we did. I made a cheese soufflé and steamed some of those Milagros veg., and we opened up some of Jeanne and Jean-Marc´s French wine, and ate Galletas de Hierro Elyn brought over from Sahagun ("cookies of iron", a local sort of pizzelle). And as they don´t have a car, we decided to go over to Sahagun to see in the New Year... over there they have church bells and bars and parties, skyrockets and a plaza mayor where people for a thousand years have gathered in for Big Moments. We packed our bunches of grapes into a bag, and grabbed the camera, and headed into the darkness.

And drove headlong into the Culture Void.

The streets were shining with holiday lights, the "tree" in the plaza glowed, the bells in the belfry rang out three times, a 15-minute warning. Sounds of merriment came from a balcony or two.

But other than that, Sahagun was dead. Calle Constitucion, Calle Leña, Alhondigas, places usually alive with people, were deserted. We walked past shuttered bars, down brightly lit streets, on to San Facundo, where the bells at the old monastery ring the hours. We saw not a single soul stirring, not even a mouse. Every self-respecting soul of Sahagun was evidently at home, celebrating with his family.

"There´s something iconic about this," Elyn said. "Four Americans out on New Year´s Eve, looking for a party in a deserted town."

"Well, three Americans," Paddy put in.

We didn´t find a party. But we spanned the year at the foot of Sahagún´s fine archway, trying gamely to down the traditional 12 grapes -- one for each stroke of the clock. (the grapes had thick skins and seeds, egad!) We gave up and gave one another kisses and hugs instead. Then we went home, while a few of Sahagún´s many pyromaniacs crept outside to shoot off rockets and smoke-bombs.

Silent streets, on the stroke of a New Year. Weird. How un-American! Not a single open bar in town... how un-British! You´d think this was another country or something!

Anyway, next year we´ll know better. Meantime, Feliz Año Nuevo to all my dear readers.


Amawalker said...

Reb, we had three in a bed at the stroke of midnight. No! Nothing kinky. We've had a really busy week so said no to the invites for old years' night parties, had a quiet dinner with my sister instead, dropped in to have a drink with our son and his new fiance and went home to bed.
Our big, black Labrador has developed a latent fear of fireworks and as soon as the big bangs started going off he decided to jump into our bed with us.
Happy New Year to all at the Peaceable Kingdom!

bridget said...

Love the mittens.
Happy New Year!

Patrick O'Gara said...

Post script: We learned today that Sahagun opens up and parties hard to welcome the New Year... they just emerge from their houses at about 1 a.m., and hop from bar to bar til about 5 am. So we just showed up too early and missed all the fun, silly old Anglos that we are.

mart - your sis said...

Your American sis and her boys had the New Years you may remember. many firecrackers and smoke bombs and lots of noise and excitement. We even had the neighbors complain! This I loved! There is something about blowing things up that makes me happy! Happy New Year to you all and you are in my thoughts always!

Gary White said...

One of those four (well, three) crazy Americans I can attest to the merriment that filled the streets of Sahagún after we were safely home and in bed.

It was great fun to spend the New Year's Eve with you and Paddy. The story of our solo consuming of the grapes was the hit of the Luna/Tovar New Years Day dinner the next day.

I'm reminded of the line from the Mikado "and make each prisoner 'pent and willingly represent, a source of innocent merriment, of innocent merriment!" That's us!!

BTW, the photos were great.

M.A. said...

Happy New Kingdom in the Peaceable Year!! ;)
faoi mhaise...

Virginia said...

Too early for the party eh? 8-) We spent several delightful New Year's Eve's in Puerta del Sol,pressed up against total strangeres in the rowdy crow - popping grapes, downing Cava...

Fun to think of you four bringing in 2009 together...Happy new Year!

Snowed in AGAIN in Santa Fe