Monday, 27 June 2011

Processions and flowers.

Yesterday evening, growing tired of waiting for my chess player to finish – and incidentally to win – his game, I strolled out for a walk on the beach. It was noisy. Rockets were going off: three loud bangs apiece. Something appeared to be going on so I went to investigate.

As I got close to the little church I saw an intricate carpet of flower petals laid out on the pavement. In front of the doorway of the church was a circular pattern of flower petals with the head of Christ in the centre. This last was protected from straying feet by temporary barriers, not surprisingly as it must have taken hours of careful work to make it.

I moved on towards the harbour to look for the source of the rockets: two men standing at the edge of the promenade, one handing the other huge rockets which he calmly lit and launched into the air from his hand. No Health and Safety concerns here then, obviously!!

At that
moment the bells of the church started to ring so I made my way back, stopping to ask a local policeman what it was all about. I was informed that it was to let us know that the procession was due to arrive. On enquiring what the procession was all about, I received one of those “are-you-really-so-stupid” looks and was told, “El Corpus”. I couldn’t begin to explain to a Spanish policeman that when you have been brought up in an English Methodist/Low Anglican tradition you just don’t know the dates of all the religious festivities, not even Corpus Christi. The only processions we had were Whit Walks, certainly nothing to do with walking the Eucharist through the streets to celebrate the Body of Christ and Mass and so on.

Anyway, I got back to the church where two young men were up in the bell tower hammering away at the bells. Clearly this church had no bell ropes and English style bell ringers. I just hope the young men were wearing ear plugs although when I commented on this to another spectator she said she didn’t think they would damage their ears. Oh, no? Those bells were pretty loud at ground level, let alone up close at the top of the tower.

Eventually the procession arrived complete with a marching band (every Spanish community has one), banners very reminiscent of the Sunday School banners form the Whit Walks of my childhood, small girls in their First Communion frothy frocks and small boys in their sailor suits. I did wonder if small boys and girls would have been included in a procession at almost 9 o’clock at night in the UK, but the sun was still up and it was nice evening.

The ladies and g
entlemen of the procession, as well as the small boys and girls, all carefully went round the edge of the flower petal street decoration. However, when the head honcho arrived – the priest or possibly a bishop if Sanxenxo has such a thing – under a canopy held up by four dignitaries, he walked straight across the whole thing.

All that effort, just to be trampled in a few minutes flat!

And then the boys in the bell tower started throwing handfuls of petals down on the assembled multitudes. Revenge perhaps.
It was an interesting bit o
f local colour. Amazing what you find when you least expect it.

On my way back I came across a bit more local colour in the shape of a gaita player and his drummer girl companion. I find these much more acceptable than the mariachi men who go from restaurant to cafe to bar and then from table to table expecting to be paid for the one tune they can play. And it usually is one tune. I have even seen ere the violin player I used to see all year round on Príncipe, Vigo’s pedestrianised shopping street. He wore the same shiny brown suit, had the same smile and played the same bit of Carmen over and over and over. Still, I expect he too deserves a day out, even if it’s a working day out.

But the gaita player and his drummer girl just stood on the promenade and played, looking quite happy about it. Passers-by could give them money or not, as they chose: no pressure!!!

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