Sunday, 24 February 2008

Stepping back in time

The weather is behaving as if it believed all that climate change talk: a succession of warm, sunny days in late February. The locals are worried. The plants are budding, and daffodils are blooming. But they need rain (the plants that is, not the locals), and if we get a big frost later, all of them could be ruined (the locals and the plants).

Still, we took advantage on Saturday. The dogs and us piled into the Kangoo and set off. We decided to stop about 15 miles further on at Cisneros. This is a village with a fair bit of history, as usual around here.
It is reputed to be the birthplace of the eponymous cardinal, around 1430 or so, and there is a statue of him in the main square. He looks like a nasty bit of work, like most cardinals, but it may just be flattering. I am not sure what he is famous - or notorious for, but a rather lively part of Madrid is named after him.

We walked from the town a mile or so along a quiet road which had a series of stone Calvary crosses spaced out along it, until we came to an interesting church, deserted and locked of course. Then we walked on another mile to a village called Pozo de Urama. Outside there, we met an elderly and friendly gent, who commented on Tim, a hunting dog. Didi I have a rifle? No. Did I hunt ? No.

I told him the story of how Tim found us. The geezer, whose name was Ruffino, then told us a lot of things about the area. As usual, the villages have been depopulated hugely. He told us the name of the church we had passed was Christ of the Lamp and that every September 8th there is a procession out from Cisneros and back. Romerias, they are called.

We walked with him to Pozo, his village, where he had been mayor for 25 years. He showed us an alternative way back across the fields , which meant we could let the dogs run loose.

About a half mile outside Cisneros, we saw two stones like tombstones in the ditch by the side of the path. One read.´ Here died Eugenio Herron, aged 36.´ The date was obliterated, but I suspect it was 1936, and that he was a victim of the Civil War. The other stone was a sort of imitation of a Roman tombstone (at least I suspect it was an imitation) with a latin inscription very hard to read. But I think it was a marker of another victim of that war.
We agreed we will try to find out more soon.

These small towns often have a big history, some of which they would often prefer to stay buried..

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Ranting about politics, unfortunately.

I try to keep off politics here, but sometimes the urge to kick a few arses gets the better of me.

Today, as Fidel Castro tells Americans he´s going to move aside and give his brother his chance to thumb his nose at them for a few years, George W. seizes the opportunity for some carefully ill-chosen words.
Release your political prisoners, he urges the Cubans. This is sound advice if you don´t have any political prisoners yourself. And, as we read within the last few days, not only does America have Gitmo, but a couple of black holes in Afghanistan in which at least three times as many unknown, uncharged, unconsidered Threats To Democracy are rotting. Some of them may well be double-dyed bastards, but since they will probably never even be named, let alone charged, we will be hard-pressed to know.

I know that by now I shouldn´t be surprised at anything that emerges from the lips of Democracy´s Posterboy, but blimey.

As we are on the subject of politics, I doubt anyone will have the patience to stick with reading this. Still, we slog on, glumly.

There was an article in El Pais a week or so back which made an excellent point on the upcoming elections in America. There is one question that is never raised. This is by mutual consent.
Obama and Hillary both tacitly agree not to mention it because neither of them has a clue, and John McCain doesn´t have to bother, because the Republicans are all in agreement on this if nothing else.

The question is this: If you are elected, what are you going to do about Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians?

All together now, Democrats and Republicans, with one voice: ¨Nothing!¨

And it is probably, in the long term, the most important question of all.

I remember, on the day of 9-11, thinking this is all about Israel.
Within days, of course, George Bush went on TV saying that this was nothing to do with Israel.
A short while later, Bin Laden released a video saying that, yes indeed, it was all about Israel.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Tackling matters

Last Friday, we went on a biggish hike from Calzadilla de los Hermanillos ( which may mean Path of the Little Brothers) to Mansilla de las Mulas (which may mean Hand on the Saddle of Mules, or it may not) A walk of some 12 miles or so. Reb drove the whole way, parked the car and walked back, with Una, to meet me about half way, then turned round and we walked the rest together.
Had a bad moment with Tim before we all met up. At one spot the Camino meets a level crossing and at that point, I was confused about the route. There were some men fixing the track to accommodate the famous high-speed train promised soon. They had a bulldozer working and Tim was frightened to go near it. As he backed away from it, his head came out of his collar. Right then the men pointed out a train coming on at about eighty miles an hour. Tim began to panic, and I had to rugby tackle him and hold him down as the train passed about 15 feet away.
He would probably have run away from the train, but who knows with dogs?

We were all pretty tired when we got to Mansilla, but it was a nice walk, bleak - no trees, no shade, no water - but over a good deal of Roman road, which is standing up pretty well after a couple of thousand years. Reb saw two foxes. Tim and I saw nothing but the train, and we could have done without it.

My one contribution to the house project has caused some problems. I noticed we had what seemed like a lot of floorboards left over and suggested they be used instead of plasterboard for a ceiling in the kitchen. Turns out that there were not enough planks, so we then had to go scouring North West Palencia for more. Still, it does look better so far.
Reb has gone all Zen about the whole thing. Que sera, sera, she says, submitting utterly to the inexorability of ineffable fate. I am reminded of a scene in a Truffault movie called Day for Night, in which the director, playing the role of himself more or less, explains how he works.
¨I always start off intending to make the greatest film ever. By the time I am half way through, all I am trying to do is get some sort of plausible ending on it.¨( I paraphrase his words)

I feel like that about practically everything, these days, the house particularly. Just make it warm and dry, please.