Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Who will buy…?

In the film adaptation of Lionel Bart's "Oliver!" there is a magnificent song-and-dance scene based on Bart's number, "Who Will Buy?", depicting the various street merchants of the nineteenth century. Guardamar is one of the few places that still has its own street merchants and the only place to have so-called sarandas.

Saranda refers to both the traditional form of selling wet fish in the street and the special form of net, rather like a flat circular basket, on which the fish are placed. The saranda is then carried on a sort of wheelbarrow that the seller pushes through the streets of Guardamar. Unfortunately, the last saranda maker has retired, so one of the saleswomen has now had to resort to a more "normal" form of barrow.

Just three saranda women are left: Gloria Palomar, Encarnita GarcĂ­a and Teresa Carreras. They learnt the trade from other family members many years ago: Gloria has been selling fish on the streets of Guardamar for more than forty years. Nobody shows any interest in following in the footsteps of these women, nor do the women themselves have any desire for their own descendants to do so. The sight of this traditional form of fish-selling is therefore destined to disappear within the next few years. Another part of old Spain will go.

The women collect the fresh fish from the Guardamar fishing quay every morning from Monday to Friday. With their sarandas full of fish that is often still alive, they return to Guardamar, where they call out their wares as they walk through the streets and stand for a while at their preferred corners. They have magnificent voices; they call, rather than sing or shout. Exactly what they call is difficult for the foreign listener to understand: I am sure it is a mixture of Valencian and whatever the local dialect might be, with a bit of Castilian thrown in here and there ("de todas las clases" seems to be a well-used phrase). It doesn't really matter, for everyone knows the sound of the saranda women and its significance: who will buy my fresh fish!

Friday, 26 June 2009

39 and holding

It was Elise's birthday yesterday. I'm not allowed to reveal exactly which birthday it was, of course, but the name of the picture file might give an indication and I can give a hint: it was somewhere between 59 and 61. Some friends came around in the evening to celebrate the auspicious occasion with a barbecue, followed by the obligatory piece of tart and the ceremony of the blowing out of the candle. A bit of a cheat, really, as we started the barbecue at gone ten o'clock in the evening and didn't get around to the tart until about one-thirty, which was officially the next day, so rather late for the birthday itself.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Bonfire Night, Spanish style

Bonfires are the thing for the Fiestas de San Juan. However, the celebrations do not last for a single night, nor are the bonfires formed by a mere pile of rubbish. In some towns, such as Alicante, there are days of parades (Alicante is basically closed to traffic for the best part of a week) and other event leading up to the big night. And the "bonfires" are veritable works of art, incorporating huge statues that take months to create prior to their brisk incineration. Each barrio (neighbourhood) seems to have its own fire, but the "official" fire is located in the square of the town hall. The 2009 fire is 20 metres high and 12 metres in diameter (!) and the square is not especially large! Firemen must constantly water down the walls of the buildings that completely enclose the square. To get an idea of some of the wonderful constructions that pass as bonfires, visit this page of photos and do a few Google searches.

Here in Guardamar, things are not quite on that scale, but the bonfires are still prepared with great care and include their own figures, usually of a comical nature, reflecting local, national or international events and personalities. The main fire, shown here, is located next to the church. The fires will be started at one o'clock in the morning (yes, at 01.00h).

Monday, 8 June 2009

All Right, You Win

The European Parliament elections have come and gone. Sadly, but very predictably, the Right has seen an upsurge in its support. Unbelievable how the sheep follow blindly to the Right when there is any sign of trouble, as is now the case with the current economic crisis. If the bah-lambs would take a moment to consider how the crisis came about, of course, they might well vote otherwise, but democracy allows even the unthinking to vote and the result is often the opposite of what is actually called for. It's fools like Bush, Aznar and Blair who are responsible for the current situation. Yes, Blair, whose so-called Labour Party in the UK is about as Left as my right hand. And why anyone here in Spain would wish to vote for the PP, the heirs to Franco's legacy, goes way beyond me. Anyway, these three, led and manipulated by powerful industrialists, landowners and others of their ilk (the rich whose only interest is getting richer, in other words) managed to head the world in a nose-dive before themselves being dethroned. The bad had already been done, however, and it will require several more years for the world to recover. Unfortunately, people look only at the present: they see problems, unemployment, businesses closing, and all the other wounds now open and festering as a result of the damage earlier inflicted, but blame these problems on the present authorities. Here in Spain, that's Zapatero's PSOE party, so this is the party that has had to take the beating for errors made by Aznar and his minions. We can only hope that things will show some improvement before the next general elections here in Spain, otherwise we shall be lumped with a PP government again and things will then go very well for a very few and poorly for the majority.

It amazes me that the PP still gains so much support here in Spain. Madrid is a PP stronghold -- has it forgotten "No Pasaran"? The Valencian Community was the final bastion of the Republicans during the Civil War: Valencia city was the final seat of the rightful government and Alicante was the final foothold of the remnants of the Republican army and its supporters, forced to the quayside by Franco's troops, many choosing suicide over capture. Yet both Madrid and Valencia now maintain apparently corrupt PP governments. Do people never learn?

The Right is the slippery slope to fascism, protectionism, nationalism and all the other ugly isms that ensure benefits to the few and misery to the many. The Right has nothing to do with the European ideals. Please think again before voting Right in the future.