Twenty-five years ago I crawled out of a tent in the Sinai Desert at midnight, hoicked my rucksack onto my back, and followed our camels in the age-old pilgrimage from St Catherine’s Monastery to the summit of Mount Sinai. You climb it at night as it’s too hot during the day. Plus the main point of the pilgrimage is to be on the summit as dawn breaks, and the extraordinary colours appear to rush towards you as the sun rises and picks out the layers of mountain-ranges spread out before you.
And so in the small hours, in a similar pilgrimage, reminding me of that night 25 years ago, the villagers of Colmenar slowly and silently trudged up the hill to reach La Ermita (the chapel) perched atop the village and guarding over us. Shortly before 5am they gathered outside the Ermita, and moments later the fireworks exploded in front of them from the roof of the Casa de Cultura, to mark the end of the feria.
“They” gathered. Not “we” gathered. I just couldn’t do it. The legs wouldn’t move. Emma and I had danced, sung, taken the odd glass or two of something, and had five long and happy nights at the feria. And somehow in the same five days we’d fitted in a friend’s wedding, I’d been to the beach for a midnight “soiree” with some crazy women friends, and Juan and I had each got a multa (a parking ticket) from the village policeman. And at the end of that, the legs simply said “enough”. As groups of neighbours left their tables in the plaza to begin the climb, we looked at each other and just said “Pues, no.” Even standing up felt impossible, let alone the trudge up the hill. For a small village, our highest point can sometimes feel an awfully long way away.
We stayed at our table, surrounded by empties and the remnants of chocolate and churros, the band continued to play, the hard-core villagers continued to drink, and the fireworks soared up above the stage, beside the Super-Moon, and over the head of the statue of Alfonso Molina Padilla, 19th-century son of Colmenar and benefactor to the orphans and students of the village.
Back in the late 1970s to the mid-1980s I worked in professional theatre, both repertory and touring shows. At the Theatre Royal, Windsor, the play changed every three weeks, and on the Saturday we’d do a matinee then an evening show, then begin the “strike” – not walking out on the job, but “striking” the set, deconstructing it, packing away the props, clearing the stage completely. It was an overnighter. Mid-morning on the Sunday we could help the crew begin building the set for the next play, sliding the massive flats (walls or stage surrounds) from the workshop behind the stage, carrying furniture into place, while the lighting guys swung overhead rearranging the lights, and the big painted backdrops were lowered in from above, to provide a view of countryside, for example, outside a window that formed part of the stage scene. We stage managers then had to unpack the boxes of set dressing that had come from the props hire company, and decorate the set under the designer’s guidance. If we were lucky we’d get to go home very late Sunday night to get a rest before an early start on Monday bringing in the props we’d been using in rehearsals and setting everything in its rightful place. Monday afternoon and the technical rehearsal began, often going on until well after midnight. When the actors left we had adjustments to make arising from the rehearsal, often having to change sound effects or props, and then another early start on Tuesday morning to prepare for the dress rehearsal at 2pm and the opening night at 7.30. It was exhausting, but we were young, and it was only every three weeks. The body coped.
Now I am old, but at least feria is only once a year. Except that’s just Colmenar feria. Next week we have Málaga feria. And on top there is the village tapas route, fiesta de Candelaria, Semana Santa, Málaga Carnaval, Noche en Blanco, San Juan, Andalucía Day, and dozens more. Sigh.
Plus it was hard to move, that Sunday night / Monday morning at 5am. There had been a LOT of free food. The Ayuntamiento (town hall) had done a splendid job, organising events for children, events for teenagers, free food, a horse show, concerts every night, sports events ranging from dominos to football, and the Coches Locos, the local version of Wacky Races.
Oh yes please, I need to. So very much …..
© Tamara Essex 2014 http://www.twocampos.com
THIS WEEK’S LANGUAGE POINT:
Oh dear. More “false friends”. Wouldn’t you think that “Por cierto” would translate to “For certain” … ie “Of course!” ??? Sigh. No it doesn’t. In fact it means “By the way”. A very useful phrase, but completely counter-intuitive.
To say “Of course” we can either say “Por supuesto”, or “Desde luego”. Odd, that second one, because it would literally translate to “From later” which makes no sense at all. I complained about this to Jose, who (with great restraint and total justification) pointed out to me that the English phrase “Of course” really makes no sense at all too, and certainly shouldn’t mean what it does!
I suppose he’s right (desde luego).